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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Calendar of Festivals

A Calendar of Festivals
retold by Cherry Gilchrist
illustrated by Helen Cann

Ages 9-12

Barefoot Books

Many communities around the world set aside special day(s) each year to commemorate a certain unique aspect of their cultural proclivity. Celebrated as a festival, these events not only stand to mark the cycle of our calendar, but also provide an opportunity to gather together with family and friends and rejoice, share a meal, and express our wonder and gratitude for life itself.

A Calendar of Festivals presents eight such festivals celebrated around the world, at different times of the year, starting with Purim in March to Russian New Year in December.

A one-page introduction of each festival presents the history, significance, and the traditional manner of celebration still observed today. The story behind the festival then unfolds, with bright and colorful illustrations.

For instance, the introduction to the Indian festival of Holi begins with, "Imagine being allowed to squirt all your friends with different colored paints!" Not having experienced this first-hand, my five-year old daughter found it exciting that children and adults are encouraged (and cheered) to indulge this way once a year, every year.

Celtic New Year fell on November 1st, known as Samhain. The day before was believed to be the time to scare away the ghosts and demons (symbolically our own fears and negativity perhaps?) by lighting bonfires. The book traces how this ancient Celtic festival came to be known as Halloween today.

From Vesak (enlightenment of the Buddha) to the Japanese festival of Tanabata, from the ancient Roman midwinter celebration now observed as Christmas to a relatively modern festival of Kwanzaa created by Dr.Maulana Karenga, the book manages to inform and entertain the young readers.

The book does touch upon the underlying deistic beliefs for each festival, drawing from mythology, folklore and biblical references. While the book doesn't intend to be a comprehensive list of popular festivals, or an exclusive subset of lesser-known festivals, there is a conspicuous absence of representation from certain cultures that would have made this book wholesome and well-rounded.

[image source:]
[this post written especially for Saffron Tree's CROCUS 2010]

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