July festivals (part 3)
There are quite a few July festivals across the globe, we still have many to talk about so let’s get going, today we’ll be talking about two plague-related festivals, as weird as that might sound, bare with us.
Asian culture will often confuse Western outsiders, and Japanese culture especially does this since it’s the one that has penetrated into the West the most. Going to the source however, you’ll be even more-so confused but that’s a good thing, and this Kyoto festival is just one such event that will both introduce you to part of their culture while also confusing you about it, it’s great.
This festival is a procession of yamaboko floats and takes place on the 17th of July; these floats are basically temples on wheels and it take up to 40 people to move them. But first, they must be built, and this activity starts three mornings from the 10th of July, you can watch them as they are being constructed out of huge blocks of stone, stone weighing more than 10 tonnes.
This festival remembers an event back in AD 869 when 66 dignitaries – carrying halberds – walked through Kyoto to beseech Gozu Tenno – the god of plague – to give the city a break.
Once the construction is over, these mobile shrines are then purivied in the river and the celebration can begin. The streets become clogged with dancers in heron costumes, gaggles of white-faced teenage girls can be seen all about clicking in wooden clogs and yukata – summer kimonos, and residences in the merchant quarter offer the chance to see Japanese heirlooms in their original setting in a sort of ‘open house’ exhibition.
Festival of the Redeemer – Venice, Italy
Between 1575 and 1577, a horrible plague swept through Venice, claiming one-third of the city’s population. Once the epidemic died out, the Senate thanked the Redeemer for answering their prayers, building Il Redentore church and started an annual festival.
Nowadays the event is much more a cause for joy and fireworks. At sunset the St Mark’s Basin fills up with thousands of illuminated boats and at about 11:30 PM the fireworks start.
The next day, the Venetians have until afternoon recover from the previous night before the gondola regatta.