FESTIVALS OF LIGHT

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Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lantern Festival  The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, marking the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and they solve riddles on the lanterns. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times though, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs, often made in the shape of animals.

The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune, and they symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of again the next year.

porto Venere

Festa della Madonna Bianca  In 1399, the plague was sweeping through the small seaside village of Porto Venere (just south of the Cinque Terre) in French-occupied Italy. In desperation, a villager by the name of Lucciardo began begging a painting of the Virgin Mary for release from this terrible disease when suddenly a miraculous event occurred: the colors of the painting began to glow. Just as suddenly, the plague mysteriously vanished.

Witnessing this strange phenomenon, the villagers attributed the disappearance of the plague to the Virgin Mary, and transported the painting to safety in the nearby Church of San Lorenzo. Thus began the devotion of the faithful to Our Lady Madonna Bianca, patron saint of the community, named for her glowing skin in the painting.

Every year since, on August 17th, the villagers celebrate with a torchlight procession through town, lighting thousands of candles along the streets leading up to the Gothic Church of San Pietro and covering the cliffs below.

diwaliDiwali  Also called the “festival of lights”, it is an    ancient Hindu festival celebrated each autumn. The festival spiritually signifies the    victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, & hope over despair.

Festival preparations and rituals typically last five days, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

In the days leading up to Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes. On Diwali night itself Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits, they light diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes and participate in family puja (prayers), typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Puja are followed by fireworks and a family feast including mithai (sweets) and gifts are exchanged between family members and close friends.

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