Traditional Festivals

A Multicultural Encyclopedia

by Christian Roy


From powwows to pai-pais, from Holi to Holy Week, through the many variations of the New Year, the world resounds with sacred festivals that date back to the earliest times. What do these observances reveal about their cultures of origin?

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Cover image for Traditional Festivals

June 2005


Pages 548
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Geography and World Cultures/Culture
  • Hardcover



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    Hardcover: £147.00/160,00€/A$245.00

This illustrated reference work covers a wide range of festivals that have sacred origins and are, or have been, part of a folk tradition, a world religion, or a major civilization.

Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia travels around the world and across the centuries to uncover an often unexpected richness of meaning in some of the major sacred festivals of the world's religions, the hallowed calendars of ancient civilizations, and the seasonal celebrations of tribal cultures.

From Akitu to Yom Kippur, its 150+ entries look at the content and context of these festivals from a number of perspectives (including those relating to theology, anthropology, folklore, and social theory), tracing their historical development and variations across cultures. Readers will get a vivid sense of what each festival means to the people celebrating it; how each captures its culture's beliefs, hopes and fears, founding myths, and redemptive visions; and how each expresses the universal need of humans to connect their lives to a timeless spiritual dimension.


  • More than 150 A–Z entries on the content and context of each festival, tracing its historical development and geographic variations, from Ashura (Islam) to Whitsuntide (Christianity)
  • 70 illustrations of festive rituals including photos of Belgium's Binche Carnival, Japan's Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Zulu Reed Dance
  • Tables of dates for the major feasts in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as for the Chinese New Year
  • Calendar graph showing at a glance the relative places of all the festivals discussed in the seasonal cycle of a single year


  • Covers all manners of traditional festivals, from the major feasts of world religions through the sacred calendars of ancient civilizations to the seasonal celebrations of tribal cultures
  • Emphasis on putting each festival in its living cultural context, including folklore and history
  • Richly illustrated to demonstrate the compelling iconography of the festivals
  • Theological and anthropological approaches used to convey the broader cultural dynamics and spiritual principles involved in each festival
Author Info

Christian Roy, PhD, is a historian and a freelance translator and researcher. He is currently a member of the International Troeltsch-Tillich Project, preparing French editions of these two German theologians' works, based at Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec.



"This work's language makes it more a scholarly than a general resource. . . . Recommended for collections supporting folklore and culture studies."Library Journal

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