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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

LOHRI BONFIRE FESTIVAL FROM PUNJAB, INDIA!!!




   For the people of Punjab, the festival of Lohri holds a great significance, as it marks the harvesting season and the end of the winter season.  The main event is the making of a huge bonfire which is symbolic of the homage to the Sun God for bringing in warmth.  Celebrated on January 13th every year.  Lohri festivities are associated with the harvesting of the Rabi crops.  There is a special significance attached to the celebration of Lohri as this day the sun enters the rashi (zodiac) of Makara (Capricorn), this is considered auspicious as it signifies a fresh start.
   Lohri has special significance for the agriculturists because, it marks the beginning of a new financial year, on this day they settle the division of the products of the land between themselves and the tillers.  Lohri assumes greater significance, if there has been a happy evet in the family, such as the birth of a child or a marriage in the past year.  The family then plays host to relatives and friends and "making merry" is the order of the day.  Most people participate in dancing the bhangra ( a folk dance) to the accompaniment of the dholak.





    The festival of Lohri is linked to the atmospheric physical changes.  Lohri celebrations generate a lot of bonhomie as people sit around the bonfire, talking, laughing, exchanging pleasantries, praying for prosperity, even as they make offerings of til (gingelly), moongphali (peanuts) and chirwa (beaten rice) to the burning embers.  All these accounts and references point to the significance of saluting the Sun.  The Sun is a symbol of plenty it gives us all we need.  Fire sanctifies their endeavors  for a good life on the one hand and destroys evil spirits on the other.

The First Lohri

   On the first Lohri of the recently wedded bride or a new born child, people give offerings of dry fruits, revri (a kind of candy made of sugar and sesame seeds), roasted peanuts, Sesame Ladoo and other foods to the fire, as well as sharing them with their family and friends gathered around the fire.  They perform the "Bhangra" dance, in groups around the fire.  The dancing and singing continues well into the night.  The Bhangra dance has rhythmic movements of the feet, shoulder and body, with outstretched hands and a lot of clapping by women partners.  Food eaten, is generally of vegetarian and traditionally, no alcohol is supposed to be consumed.





The First Lohri of a Bride

   The first Lohri of a bride is considered very important.  It is celebrated with increased fervor and on a larger scale.  The family of the newly wedded wife and husband gather around the fire wearing their best, often new clothes, decorated with beautiful Punjabi embroidery in gold and silk threads with mirror work.  The newly married woman wears new bangles, applies henna or "mehndi" on their hands and puts a colorful bindi, a decorative spot on their foreheads.  The husband also wears new clothes and colorful turbans.  The new clothes and jewelery is given to her by her new in-laws.  She wears bangles almost up to her elbows.  The mother-in-law presents heavy garments and jewelry to he new bride.  The bride remains in her in-law's house where a grand feast is arranged and all the sons and daughters, with their spouses and children and all of their close friends and neighbors are invited.  In the early evening, when all have arrived, the new bride is dressed in her best salwar suit or phaphra and is made to sit, along with her husband, in a central place where the father and mother in law perform the presentation of clothes and jewelry.  The close relatives and friends also join in and present clothes or cash to the new bride.





The First Lohri for a Newborn

   The first Lohri of a new born is also a special occasion, in which all friends and family join to celebrate.  it is preformed in the later part of the evening.  Invitations can be sent for this function, depending on how the family wants to celebrate this occasion.  The event is observed at the home of the child's parents, in the presence of close relatives, friends and well wishers.  All the guests usually bring gifts for the baby and the new mother.  The child's grandparent's give gifts to the child's paternal relatives also.
   On the first Lohri of a new born baby, the mother is attired in heavy clothes and is wearing a lot of jewelery with mehndi on her hands and feet and sits with the baby in her lap.  The family does the presentations.  The mother and father-in-law usually gives a large quantity of presents in the form of clothes and cash and others in the immediate family do so also.  The maternal grandparents also send gifts of clothes, sweets, rayveri, peanuts, popcorn's and fruits.

FESTIVAL AU DESERT IN TIMBUKTU!!!




   The Touaregs, nomads from the south of the Sahara, have a long standing tradition of coming toether for annual meeting called Takoubelt in the Kidal region or Temakannit in the Timbuktu region.  These meetings allowed them to reconnect with each other (after the nomadic season), have fun, resolve conflicts between individuals or groups and to exchange ideas about the challenges that they were facing at the moment.  These encounters are what "Le Festival au Desert" is built upon.  "Le Festival au Desert", in its present form was born in January 2001, at the dawn of the third millennium, following a meeting between Touaregs from Mail and European musicians.






   The organization of the Festival, wit its focus on combining modernity and tradition, is driven by a strong desire to open its doors to the outside world, while still preserving the cultures and traditions of the desert; for some,  this signifies being listened to and then recognized, for others it is a way to discover the desert through the inhabitants' values of hospitality and tolerance.
   In the beginning, the Festival was nomadic in its nature: the first Festival took place in Tin Essako in 2001 and then it moved to Tessalit in 2002 in the Kidal region (North-East Mali).  However, after the 3rd year in 2003, when the Festival was held in Essakane close to Timbuktu, the organizers had to start envisioning a fixed location for the Festival in light of the enormous preparation required and the ever growing public interest and attendants.  It's in this way that they decided to make Essakane the permanent site of the Festival in order to begin building durable installations that could be used in the context of tourism promotion.






   "Le Festival au Desert" is also a way to celebrate "La Flamme de la Paix" (The Flame of Peace), a name that was given to the ceremony where more than 3000 firearms were burned (and transformed into a monument) in 1996 in Timbuktu, putting a solemn end to the rebellion that, for years, shrouded northern Mali in gloom.  Until today, this act still constitutes an example of how to manage conflicts, a model that ignites inspiration throughout the world.
   The major position that culture has taken in occidental economies prefigures the posiion that culture will have in the southern economies in a few years.  Thus, "Le Festival au Desert" would like to become a factor in job creation in the near region, thereby promoting local development as well as bringing together the people of the earth.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

THE KAAPSE KLOPSE (MINSTREL) FESTIVAL FROM CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA!!!




   The Kaapse Klopse is a minstrel festival that takes place annually on January 2nd, in Cape Town, South Africa.  Up to 13,000 minstrels, many in blackface, take to the streets garbed in bright colors, either carrying colorful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments.  The minstrels are grouped in klopse ("clubs" in Cape Dutch, but more accurately translated as troupes in English).  Participants are typically from Afrikaans-speaking working class "colored" families who have preserved the custom since the mid 19th century. 
   Although it is called the Coon Carnival by Capetonians, local authorities have renamed the festival the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival as foreign tourist find the term "coon" derogatory.






History

   One story goes that the carnival was inspired by a group of African-American minstrels who docked in Cape Town in the late 1800's and entertained the sailors with their spontaneous musical performances.  The popular song Hier kom die Alabama (Here comes the Alabama) refers to the ship that is believed to have brought them.  Another story goes that the traveling minstrels were actually white and painted their face black...hence the painted faces seen today.






Inspiration

   The source of the parade and the festival are the horrors of slavery, as was blackface minstrels in the United States.  As Denis-Constant Martin's book Coon Carnival informs us, several forms given to physical torture, including the burning of effigies on Guy Fawkes day, evolved into the present day commemoration.  Some would remind us, however, that American style slavery has more influence in America than Southern Africa.  Guy Fawkes day is a British custom, and is not connected as such with American slavery.  Even American blackface minstrels are more connected with celebrations of the people that came out of slavery than with the institution itself.






Troupe Organisation


   The majority of the troupes (approximately 169) are represented by the Kaapse Karnaval ("Cape Carnival") Association.  In addition, two breakaway organisations (the Kaapse Karnaval Association and the Mitchell's Plain Youth Development Minstrel Board) represent a minority of troupes.






The Carnival Today

   The festival begins on New Year's Day and continues into January.  Traditionally, it has been a site for grievances against white supremacy.  Festivities include street parades with singing and dancing, costume competitions and marches through the streets.  While many troupes now are supported by corporate sponsors, many refuse and remain sticklers for tradition.  The 2005 carnival was nearly cancelled due to an alleged lack of funding, while the 2006 carnival was officially called off for the same reason.  However, the troupe organisations subsequently decided to go ahead with the parade despite continued unhappiness over funding, and the festivities, were opened by Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rascool on January 2nd, 2006.

Friday, January 28, 2011

BURN'S NIGHT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM!!!


Robert Burns





   Burns Night is annually, celebrated in Scotland on or around January 25th.  It commemorates the life of the bard (poet) Robert Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759.  The day also celebrates Burns' contribution to Scottish culture.  Burns' best known work is "Auld Lang Syne".





reading some poetry for Burns' night




What People Do?

   Many people and organizations hold a Burns' supper on or around Burns' Night.  These may be informal, only for men, only for women, or for both genders.  Formal events include toasts and readings of pieces written by Robert Burns.  Ceremonies during a Burns' Night supper vary according to the group organizing the event and the location.






    The evening centers on the entrance of the haggis (a type of sausage made from a sheep's stomach) on a large platter to the sound of a piper playing bagpipes.  When the haggis is on the table, the host reads the "Address to Haggis".  This is an ode that Robert Burns wrote to the Scottish dish.  At the end of the reading, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins.





Some whiskey and Haggis



Public Life

   Burns' Night is an observance but it is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom.

Background

   Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland , on January 25, 1759.  He died in Dumfries, Scotland, on July 21, 1796.  He was a poet and wrote many poems, lyrics and other pieces that addressed political and civil issues.  Perhaps his best known work is "Auld Lang Syne", which is sung at New year's Eve celebrations in Scotland, parts of the U.K., and other places around the world.  Burns is one of Scotland's important cultural icons and is well known among Scottish expats or descendants around the world.  he is also known as "Rabbie Burns", the fa"Bard of Ayrshire", "Scotland's favorite son"; and in Scotland as "The Bard".





Men in their kilts
 


    Robert Burns' acquaintances held the first Burns' supper on July 21st, the anniversary of his death, in Ayshire, Scotland, in the late 1700's.  The date was later changed to January 25th, which marks his birthday.  Burns' suppers are now held by people and organizations with Scottish origins worldwide, particularly in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States.

Symbols

   The Scottish flag is often displayed at Burns' Night celebrations.  It is known as the Saltire and consists of a rectangular blue background with thick white bars on the diagonals.  The diagonals form a cross that represents Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
   At Burns' Night events, many men wear kilts and women may wear shawls, skirts or dresses made from their family tartan.  A tartan was originally a woolen cloth with a distinctive pattern made by using colors of weft and warp when weaving.  Particular patterns and combinations of colors were associated with different areas, clans and families.  Tartan patterns are now printed on various materials.



A plate of some Scottish delicacies


   Many types of food are associated with Burns' Night.  These include: socock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup); haggis; neeps (mashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes); cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served wit sweet oat wafers); bannocks (a kind of bread cooked on a griddle).  Whiskey is the traditional drink.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

INTERNATIONAL CIRCUS FESTIVAL OF MONTE-CARLO!!





    The Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo (International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo) was created in 1974 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to promote circus arts....for which he had a lifelong passion.  The first festival was held from December 26th to the 30th, 1974 under the big top of the French circus Bouglione, installed on what was then the Esplande de Fontvielle.  In the forward he wrote for the program, Prince Rainiers said, "This International Circus Festival was created thinking of the circus community, of this family of underestimated people, so that you, attentive spectators of their efforts and of their work, could know them better, and celebrate them better".  It was the first true circus festival ever presented in the Western world.






   During the Festival, a selection of some of the best circus acts in the business are presented twice to a paying audience and a Jury of circus professionals, journalists, and specialists...presided until 2005 by the late Prince Rainier III, and since 2006, by his daughter, Princess Stephanie of Monaco.  The Jury awards Gold and Silver Clowns, and since 2002 a Bronze Clown, in the form of statuettes sculpted by Paule Male'.  Other prizes and trophies are awarded by the City of Monaco, and various
corporations, press organizations, associations, and individuals.  The Festival presents about 25 acts each yer, in two different set of performances.  The awards are presented during a closing Gala performance attended by the Prince of Monaco, and his family and guests.  Traditionally, the Prince also attends every selection performance.  The first Gold Clowns, which in time became the equivalent of an Oscar, to the circus world, were award to Alfred Court, in tribute to his exceptional career, and to Charlie Rivel.






   In 1975, the Festival was presented under the big top of the Italian circus, Nando, Liana e Rinaldo Orfei, and from 1975 to 1994, under the big top of another Italian Circus, Circo American-Togni.  Since 1995, it has been held under a large, sedentary circus structure, permanently installed in what is now the Quartier Fontvielle, in Monaco.



Under the big top tent in Monte Carlo



   In 2006, the Festival staged an extraordinary tribute to Prince Rainier III of Monaco (who had passed away the previous year), with a five hour show that gathered the greatest assemblage of Gold and Silver Medalists ever seen (some of them performing at the same time, like the amazing juggling duet formed by Kris Kremo and Anthony Gatto, or Oleg Izossimov sharing the ring with The Rodions and Wei Baohua &Wu Zheng).  It was probably the greatest circus performance ever produced.






   The International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo is now held each year in mid January.  Presided by S.A.S. Princess Stephanie of Monaco, it remains today, without a doubt, the most important circus manifestation in the world, and it has become the annual rendezvous of the international circus community and of a large international audience of circus enthusiasts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TOUGH GUY COMPETITION FROM STAFFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND!! THE MOST ENDURING 1 DAY RACE IN THE WORLD!!!




   Tough Guy claims to be the world's most demanding 1 day survival contest.
   First stages in 1986, the Tough Guy Challenge is held on a 600 acre farm in Perton, Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton, England, and is organized by Billy Wilson.  It has been widely described as "the toughest race in the world", with up to 1/3rd of the starters of the racing failing to finish in a typical year.
   After the 24 stages of this winter event, Wilson still claimed nobody had ever finished all the course according to his extremely demanding rules.  The race, and its summer equivalent, has suffered 2 deaths during its history.
   Taking place at the end of January, often in freezing winter conditions, the Tough Guy race is staged over a course of between 7 and 8 miles.  It consists of  a cross country run followed by an assault course.  The organizers claim that running the course involves risking barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones.
   Although the course is adjusted each year, its features have included a 40 foot crawl through flooded underground tunnels, balancing planks across a fire pit, and a 1-2 mile wade through chest deep muddy water.  Marshals dressed as commandos fire machine-gun blanks and let off thunder flashes and smoke bombs over the heads of competitors as they crawl under a 210 foot section of barbed wire.  Until 2000, some runners took part in the event carrying heavy wooden crosses.






   Entry fees range from 80 British pounds to 1000, depending on the sign up date.  Entrants have to be 16 years old or older.  The event regularly attracts fields of up to 6,000 competitors, many from the U.S. and more than 20 countries around the world.
   Before taking part, entrants must sign a "death warrant", which acknowledges the risks and dangers, and which the organizers claim absolves them of any legally liability.  First aid is provided.
   The winner of Tough Guy in 2009 was James Appleton, a 23 year old student from Cambridge University in 1 hour and 18 minutes.
   In 2010, despite especially cold conditions, Paul Jones (1:18:53)  won the race and  5 other men were
 inside 1 hr. 21 min.






Deaths and Injuries

   In 2000, 1 competitor collapsed midway through the race and later died in the hospital, reportedly of a massive heart attack brought on by extreme hypothermia.  According to race records, this was the first fatality in 15 years of the race.
   In 2007 a man in his 30's collapsed and died when taking part in the summer version of the competition, the "Nettle Warrior".
   Other injuries suffered in the event are common.  Local newspaper reports suggested that among the competitors in the 2009 event, one suffered a broken neck, while there were a dozen broken or dislocated bones and 600 runners, including the winner, suffered hypothermia.






The Nettle Warrior

   Nettle Warrior is the summer version of Tough Guy, first stages in 1998, and is normally run at the end of July.  Though the course is essentially the same as Tough Guy, there are some differences.  Nettle Warrior involves 2 laps of an area the organizers have called "The killing fields", a log carry and some rafting as part of "The Lake" obstacle.

The Competition Course

   The Race consists of a cross country run, followed by an obstacle course, referred as the "Killing Fields".

  • Country miles-A 6 mile cross country run.
  • Slalom-An up and down slalom, consisting of running up a hill and back down.
  • Ghurkha Grand National-A series of fences, ditches and jumps with cargo nets to scramble under.
  • The Tiger (followed by Sting in the Tail)-A 40 foot A-frame, crossing through hanging electrified cables and another 40 foot A-frame.
  • Scaffold Bridge-This is traditionally the location of a water break.
  • Colditz Walls-Three progressively higher walls-6, 9 and 12 feet high.
  • Behemoth-Four tall platforms with ropes stretching between them.





Battle of the Somme

  • Fiery Holes-A series of muddy water ditches, followed by burning bales of hay.
  • Tire Crawl-Tunnels created from tires.
  • Swamp-Knee deep mud crossing with a vacuum that will suck in the strongest of men.
  • Vietcong Tunnels-Underground tunnels created from concrete pipes.
  • Sky Walk and Paradise Climb-A cargo net which leads out to ropes draped across a pond.
  • Splosh Pool-A recreation of walking the plank.
  • Underwater Tunnel-Three poles to duck under, leading up to the underwater tunnel.
  • Brandenburger Gate-40 foot vertical wall climb.





Deux Chevaux Island

  • Death Plunge-Planks of wood extending out over a lake.
  • Jesus Bridge-A bridge of barrels and planks of wood.
  • Dans Deceiver-A vertical cargo net, followed by a declined cargo net.
  • Dragon Pools-Series of ropes stretched across the pool.
  • Somme Surprise-Barrel rafts tied together to form a bridge.
  • Stalag Escape-20 foot crawl through mud, under barbed wire.
  • Tire Torture-A path of randomly laid tires to stumble across.
Pedestrian Bridge

  • The Anaconda-A series of large concrete pipes.
  • Viagra Falls-A steep muddy hill.






Last Man Standing

   There is also a smaller course for participant of that day's event. It consits of:
  • 45 foot underwater swim.
  • Scottish Thistle Hill roll.
  • Lassoed Legs Lake Lope.
  • Highwire Brandenburg Bootlace Struggle.
  • Highwire TG bootlace Blaney Kiss.
  • Bite electric wire.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WHITTLESEA STAW BEAR FESTIVAL!!!




Origins of the Straw Bear

   In Whittlesea, from when no one quite knows, it was the custom on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the 1st Monday after Twelfth Night) to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a "Straw Bear".  A newspaper of 1882 reports that ..."he was then taken around the town to entertain by his frantic and clumsy gestures, the good folk who had on the previous day subscribed to the rustics, a spread of beer, tobacco and beef".
   The bear was described as having great lengths of tightly twisted straw bands prepared and wound up the arms, legs and body of the man or boy who was unfortunate enough to have been chosen.  Two sticks fastened to his shoulders met a point over his head and the straw wound around upon them to form a cone above the "Bear's" head.  The face was quite covered and he could hardly see.  A tail was provided and a strong chain fastened around the armpits.  He was made to dance in front of houses and gifts of money or beer and food for later consumption was expected.  It seems that he was considered important, as straw was carefully selected each year, from the best available, the harvesters saying, "That'll do for the Bear".
   The tradition fell into decline at the end of the 19th century, the last sighting being in 1909 as it appears that an over zealous police inspector had forbidden  "Straw Bears" as a form of cadging.




Straw bear 1906

Reviving the Tradition

   The custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society, and for the first time in seventy years a "Straw Bear" was seen on the streets accompanied by his attendant keeper, musicians and dancers, about 30 in all.  Various public houses were visited around the town as convenient places for the "Bear" and dancers to perform in front of an audience...with much needed rest, drink and food as available.





    The Bear is constructed in a more practical way now, the straw being fixed to a suitable piece or clothing or suit, the head is supported on a metal frame on the shoulders.  This allows the costume to be removable, which is essential, as the length of the parade route and the time taken, necessitates 2 people "driving the bear".  The person wearing the costume is adding approximately 70 pound to his own weight.



Another picture of the early years



    The parade now contains over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various part of the British Isles performing traditions "Molly", "Morris", "Clog" and "Sword" (traditional English folk songs),  songs and dances.  There is also American style "Appalachian" or a type of square dancing, street performances and Mummers plays.  A decorated plough pulled by a local Morris side is now an established part of the parade.





   Recently the Straw Bear has made friend with a German Straw Bear from Walldurn, near Frankfurt, Germany, a town that celebrates its own Straw Bear Festival on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday the day before Lent, which is on a Wednesday.
   Although the festivities begin earlier in the week, Saturday is the only day on which the "Bear" makes an appearance before the "Bear Burning" on Sunday.  This leads the way open for a new bear to be created from the next seasons harvest.

Monday, January 24, 2011

BATTLE OF THE ORANGES FESTIVAL AND CARNIVAL FROM IVREA, ITALY!!




   The Battle of the Oranges is a carnival and festival in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea, which includes a tradition of throwing of oranges between organized groups. It is the largest food fight in Italy.

History of the Festival

   The festival's origins are somewhat unclear.  A popular account has it that it commemorates the city's defiance against the city's tyrant, who is either a member of the Ranieri family or a conflation of the 12th century Ranieri di Biandrate and 13th century Marquis William VII of Montferrat.  This tyrant attempted to rape a young commoner (often specified as a miller's daughter) on the eve of her wedding, supposedly exercising the (possibly fictional) droit de segneur.  His plan backfired when the young woman instead decaptated the tyrant, after which the populace stormed and burned the palace.  Each year, a young girl is chosen to play the part of Violetta, the defiant young woman.






  Every year the citizens remember their liberation with the Battle of the Oranges where teams of "Aranceri" (orange handlers) on foot throw oranges (representing ancient arrows and stones) against Aranceri riding in carts, representing Arduino's allies.  During the 19th century French occupation of Italy the Carnival of Ivrea was modified to add representatives of the French army who help the miller's wife.  The carnival may have started in the 12th century and also includes a large bonfire.






Celebration
  
   The core celebration is based on a locally famous Battle of the Oranges that involves some thousands of townspeople, divided into nine combat teams,who throw oranges at each other....with considerable violence...during the traditional carnival days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  The carnival ends on the night of "Fat Tuesday" with a solemn funeral.  Traditionally, at the end of the silent march that closes the carnival the "General" says goodbye to everyone with the classical phrase in dialect "arvedse a giobia a 'n bot", translated as "we'll see each other on Thursday at one", referring to the Thursday the carnival will start the next year".






Miller's Daughter

   One of the citizens is elected Mugnaia. The legend has that a miller's daughter (a "Mungnaia") once refused to accept the "right" of the local duke to spend a night with each newly wed woman and chopped his head off.  Today the carriages represent the duke's guard and the orange throwers the revolutionaries.  Spectators are not allowed to throw oranges, but visitors are allowed to enlist in the teams.  if they wear a red hat they are considered part of the revolutionaries and will not have oranges thrown at them.






   Originally beans were thrown, then apples.  Later, in the 19th century, oranges came to represent the duke's chopped off head.  The origin of the tradition to throw oranges is not well understood, particularly as oranges do not grow in the foothills of the Italian Alps and must be imported from Sicily.  In 1994 an estimated 580,000 pounds of oranges were brought to the city, mainly coming from the leftovers of the winter crop in southern Italy.

CAMEL WRESTLING FROM TURKEY!!




   Camel wrestling is a sport in which two male Tulu camels wrestle in response to a female camel in heat being led before them.  It is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also found in the Marmara and Mediterranean regions of that country.  There are an estimated 1,200 wrestling camels in Turkey, bred specially for the competitions.






Parade

   The day before each Championship is set aside for a parade through the town of Selcuk, with the animals dressed up in all their finery.  Not all of the fighting camels will attend the parade however.  In 2011 around 30 camels were on show on the Saturday, with around 100 taking part in the fighting.  The most beautiful camel in 2011 was "Palavra", a camel with a particularly talented foaming mouth.






Championship

   Held in an ancient stadium at Ephesus, 6 kilometers from the town of Selcuk, on the 3rd Sunday of January, the camel wrestling championships have drawn thousands of spectators annually.  The festival usually highlights wrestling of 120- camels, but in 2001 only 96 were involved.  The event puts together two bull (male) camels with a female camel on heat nearby.  The camels fight it out for the female, leaning on each other to push the other down.  A camel can win a wrestling match in three ways: By making the other camel retreat, scream, or fall.  The owner of a camel may also throw a rope into the field to declare a forfeit if he is concerned for the safety of his animal.  Camels wrestle with other in their same weight class.  Camels have different tricks, and contest organizers match camels with different skills.  Some camels wrestle from the right and some from the left; some trip the other with foot tricks ("cengelci"), and some trap their opponent's head under their chest and then try to sit ("bagei"); some push their rivals to make them retreat ("tekci").  The actual wrestling can be somewhat underwhelming to someone not familiar with the intricacies, although onlookers must often flee from an oncoming camel that is retreating in defeat from his opponent.  In the heat of the tournament, camels spew foamy saliva in their excitement.  Additionally, camels are retromingent animals, and so spectators would be advised to aware not only of flying saliva but of flying urine as well.




One of the bands entertaining the crowds


Atmosphere

   The event is famous for it's electric atmosphere, starting on the Saturday at the parade, and lasting long into the evening.  Gypsy bands roam the center of Selcuk playing Zirna (like a cross between a clarinet and a recorder), Clarinet, and Davul (drum).  The local men drink raki and dance energetically for many hours, only to wake up and head off to the main event early Sunday morning.  You have to be early to get a good ringside seat, with many restaurants set up offering food and drinks to those willing to pay a little extra for the convenience.  If you miss out though, you can join the thousands of spectators lining the hills which surround the ring, cooking barbecues and drinking more of the infamous raki.  The gypsy bands don't miss out on all the action, and will spend the day roaming from group to group searching for tips and adding great tunes for the crowds to dance to.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

FACTS ABOUT UKRAINAN ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS!!



   Just when many in the United States are done celebrating Christmas, folks in the Ukraine are just getting started.  The Julian calendar used by Orthodox Ukrainians is 13 days behind our Gregorian calendar.  That is why their Christmas is just beginning on January 6th-Christmas Eve.
   In 988 A.D., Christianity was introduced in the Ukraine.  The people were very loyal to their ancient pagan rituals of celebrating Winter Solstice and Feasts of Fertility.  The traditions of these feasts were incorporated into the Christmas tradition.






Facts about the Ukrainian Christmas or Reesdvoh

   Christmas festivities in the Ukraine begin on Christmas Eve, January 6th, with a sacred supper for the entire family.  Three rings of braided Christmas Bread or kolach is placed in the center of the table, God's Bread, called kutia, is the most important food, made from wheat, poppy seeds and honey.  The family eats of the kutia while drinking God's Drink uzvar, which is made of 12 stewed fruits.  The patriarch of the household offers prayer for the family at the onset of the communion.  Then it's time for the Christmas Eve meal.





   The Ukrainian Christmas Eve Super meal consists of 12 courses.  Each course represents one of the 12 Apostles of Christ as well as each full moon during the year.  The supper has no red meat, just fish.  It starts with 1)kutia, the main dish of the whole supper, 2)borshch, which is a beet soup, 3)vushka, boiled dumplings filled with chopped mushrooms and onions.  The vushka is followed by a variety of fish, 4)baked fish, 5)boiled fish, 6)fried fish, 7)cold fish in aspic (like a gelatin), 8)fishballs, and 9)marinated herring.  This is followed by 10)boiled dumplings filled with cabbage, potatoes, buckwheat grains, or prunes, called varenyky.  There are also 11)holubtsi or stuffed cabbage, and lastly 12)more uzvar.







   The Ukrainian Christmas includes caroling.  Ukrainian children travel from house to house through their neighborhoods.  They ask permission before serenading every member in the household, including babies.  At least one is dressed in costume; the goat.  The bag carrier uses his bag to carry gifts.  The goat is the main character in a skit the children put on in each house.
   Since the 17th Century, students of the Aiyvan Academy have traveled from town to town to present VERTEP, the Ukrainian Puppet Theater during the Christmas celebration.  The play consits of both serious and humorous acts in which the legendary Kozak is the folk hero.






   The Ukrainian Christmas includes the Chrstmas tree, along with a legend about a family too poor to have a tree.  The mother took some fruit and nuts and placed them in the tree outside her home.  That evening, the spiders weaved webs all over the tree which turned to silver and gold when hit by light.  This was known as the spider web legend.






   If you were expecting Santa or as he is known in Europe as Saint Nicholas, during the Ukrainian Christmas you would have missed him.  The celebration of St. Nick took place three weeks earlier.  The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated on December 19th on the Julian calendar.  The Patron Saint of Gifts is celebrated with gift giving, fun for young children and also sleigh rides.