Thursday, January 14, 2010

Today's Festivals

January 14th marks the Indian festival of Makar Sankranti (and variations of spelling). This is a mid-winter Hindu festival in India and Nepal. The festival is celebrated, in different ways in different parts of India. It marks the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, as calculated sidereally rather than tropically, during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (or the beginning of Uttarayana).

Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in the month of Poush in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makar Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14th January every year. (See here).
.January 14th was also.....

The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l'âne) a medieval, Christian feast celebrating the biblical Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus's birth. This feast may represent a Christian adaptation of the pagan feast Cervulus/Cervula, held at the Kalends of January, when people dressed in the hides of deer or stags and performed various activities later considered to be profane. By the 16th century the Feast of the Ass had disappeared, as had the Feast of Fools.

An unrelated tidbit I picked up while reading about the above: the origin of the English expression "fortnight" (2 weeks) is from the German. Germans used to count their calendar by nights rather than days, so: "fourteen nights". The expression hasn't reached the shores of the USA, as far as I can tell - at least it hasn't reached Oklahoma, for hereabouts I get a puzzled look if ever I accidentally come out with it.


R J Adams said...

Good Lord! I wondered why I get blank stares when mentioning the word, 'fortnight'.
I just put it down to good old American stupidity.

Twilight said...

RJ ~~~ LOL! American stupidity?
Ahem 'You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment'