UNIQUE JULY festivals THE WORLD CELEBRATES

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Although for tropical countries it is more or less summer throughout the whole year, there are many countries which experience seasonal differences and for those countries, summer comes only once a year and last for three – four months. During summer lots of festivities are happening to celebrate the season. These celebrations are unique to each country and have different origins. Some are seasonal and traditional while others are cultural and historical. Here are some of the interesting summer festivals that take place around the world in the month of July.

Tenjin Festival – Japan

Tenjin Festival or Tenjin Matsuri is held in Osaka, Japan and has a rich history of over 1,000 years. It is one of the three main and most popular summer festivals in Japan, and a major tourist attraction in Osaka.

Tenjin Matsuri is held at Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka and is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane – the principal deity of scholarship. On the first day of Tenjin, the festivities take to the streets of Osaka as Bunraku puppet shows, percussion shows involving Taiko drums, lion dances, and Kaguru music performances fill the streets. On the second day, the Japanese wearing ancient traditional clothes, as shown in ancient Osaka-Castle paintings, parade from Tenmangu Shrine towards Tenjin-bashi Bridge while carrying small replicas of shrines. In the evening the participants of the parade get on boats and ride up and down Okawa River. A large number of such boats fill the Okawa River and the torches lit in them create a spectacular spectacle as the dusk arrives. At night, firework displays are held on multiple locations along the river band, intensifying the wow-factor of the festival. On the third day the crowd again gather at Tenmangu Shrine take part in religious activities. This involves special chants and a rhythmic clapping to go with it.

Boat races of Kerala – India

Boat races are among many traditional celebrations of Kerala that are still practice today. These snake-shaped boats or ‘Chundanvallam’ can hold quite the number of riders and are up to 100 feet in length. All the riders toil tirelessly to bring glory to their respective teams and the sporting spectacle bring life and much action to the rivers, breaking the otherwise calm and tranquil water surface. Every year this traditional sporting event brings both local and international tourists to Kerala in large numbers.

The Torch Festival – China

The Torch Festival or the Fire Festival is a traditional festival celebrated in the Southeast China by Yi People – an ethnic minority in China – as well as a few other tribes. The purpose of the festival is the ward off evil spirits and to bless the New Year. The festival is held on the sixth month of Yi calendar which corresponds to July/August in the Gregorian calendar. The people who take part gather in the mountain tops or plain higher grounds and collectively light large torches. The celebrations also involve traditional dances as well as singing of folk songs.

Bastille Day – France

Bastille Day falls on 14 July every year and is considered as the National Day of France. It commemorates the start of the French Revolution which happened on 14 July 1789 with the crowd breaking and entering Bastille – a fortress prison.

On the day the French gather in Paris in numbers to celebrate their national Day. The celebrations involve military parades, politicians issuing official statements, pageants, and firework displays.

The Festival of Giants – France

The Festival of Giants is celebrated in Northern France and has a history of over 500 years. Most of the cities in Northern France have a patron giant to protect them and each city take part in the Festival of Giants with a 25-foot tall wooden structure of the city’s patron giant as well as other characters and giants that come in local folklore.

The main event or the main celebrations of the Festival of Giants takes place in Douai. According to the legends, the ancient city of Douai was under threat as due to the Normand invasion in the ninth century, and a giant named Gayant who was a knight stepped forward and fought the Normand to save the city. Following his victory, the people of the city made a statue in his honour and created a festival to thank him. However, the church banned the festival since it was idolatry but the celebrations commenced again in 1530. The city of Douai has been celebrating the Festival of Giants ever since.

The wooden statues of giants and other characters are so heavy that a large statue requires six strong men to carry and move them in the parade. Smaller ones however, are lighter in comparison and only 9 feet long, requiring only one person to carry each of them.

Fourth of July – USA

The Fourth of July or Independence Day of USA is celebrated early July every year to commemorate the Declaration of Independence which was ratified on 4 July 1776, establishing the United States of America. The celebrations take a rather festive manner with Americans gathering in major cities to take part in or to witness Independence Day parades, to eat and drink, and to enjoy the day. Fireworks play a vital part in the Fourth of July celebrations with several cities holding firework displays which are popular among both local and foreign tourists. On the day the President of USA addresses the nation while emphasising on the importance of history, traditions, and the constitution.

(Translated by Sanuj Hathurusinghe) 

By Chandana Ranaweera