Unit 1 Festivals around the world FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS Festivals and celebrations of all kinds have been held everywhere since ancient times. Most ancient festivals would celebrate the
end of cold weather, planting in spring and harvest in autumn. Sometimes celebrations would be held after hunters had caught animals. At that time people would starve if food was difficult to find, especially during the cold winter months. Today’s festivals have many origins, some religious, some seasonal, and some for special people or events. Festivals of the dead Some festivals are held to honour the dead or to satisfy the ancestors, who might return either to help or to do harm. For the Japanese festival Obon, people should go to clean graves and light incense in memory of their ancestors. They also light lamps and play music because they think that will lead the ancestors back to earth. In Mexico, people celebrate the Day of the Dead in early November. On this important feast day, people eat food in the shape of skulls and cakes with “bones” on them. They offer food, flowers and gifts to the dead. The Western holiday Halloween also had its origin in old beliefs about the return of the spirits of dead people. It is now a children’s festival, when they can dress up and go to their neighbours’ homes to ask for sweets. If the neighbours do not give any sweets, the children might play a trick on them. Festivals to Honour People Festivals can also be held to honour famous people. The Dragon Boat Festival in China honours the famous ancient poet, Qu Yuan. In the USA, Columbus Day is in memory of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. India has a national festival on October 2 to honour Mohandas Gandhi, the leader who helped gain India’s independence from Britain. Harvest Festivals Harvest and Thanksgiving festivals can be very happy events. People are grateful because their food is gathered for the winter and the agricultural work is over. In European countries, people will usually decorate churches and town halls with flowers and fruit, and will get together to have meals. Some people might win awards for their farm produce, like the biggest watermelon or the most handsome rooster. China and Japan have mid-autumn festivals when people admire the moon and in China enjoy moon-cakes. Spring Festivals The most energetic and important festivals are the ones that look forward to the end of winter and to the coming of spring. At the Spring Festival in China, people eat dumplings, fish and meat and may give children lucky money in red paper. There are dragon dances and carnivals, and families celebrate the Lunar New Year together. Some Western countries have very exciting carnivals, which take place forty days before Easter, usually in February. These carnivals might include parades, dancing in the streets day and night, loud music and colourful clothing of al kinds. Easter is an important religious and social festival for Christians around the world. It celebrates the return of Jesus from the dead and the coming of spring and new life. Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival happens a little later. The country, covered with cherry tree flowers, looks as though it is covered with pink snow. People love to get together to eat, drink and have fun with each other. Festivals let us enjoy life, be proud of our customs and forget our work for a little while.
A SAD LOVE STORY LI Fang was heart-broken. It was Valentine’s Day and Hu Jin had said she would meet him at the coffee shop after work. But she didn’t turn up. She could be with her friends right now laughing at him. She said she would be there at seven o’clock, and he thought she would keep her word. He had looked forward to meeting her all day, and now he was alone with his roses and chocolates, like a fool. Well, he was not going to hold his breath for her to apologize. He would drown his sadness in coffee. It was obvious that the manager of the coffee shop was waiting for Li Fang to leave - he wiped the tables, then sat down and turned on the TV - just what Li Fang needed! A sad Chinese story about lost love. The granddaughter of the Goddess of Heaven visited the earth. Her name was Zhinü , the weaving girl. While she was on earth she met the herd boy Niulang and they fell in love. (“Just like me and Hu Jin,” thought Li Fang.) They got married secretly, and they were very happy. (“We could be like that,” thought Li Fang.) When the Goddess of Heaven knew that her granddaughter was married to a human, she became very angry and made the weaving girl return to Heaven. Niu Lang tried to follow her, but the river of stars, the Milky Way, stopped him. Finding that Zhinü was heart-broken, her grandmother finally decided to let the couple cross the Milky Way to meet once a year. Magpies make a bridge of their wings so the couple can cross the river to meet on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. People in China hope that the weather will be fine on that day, because if it is raining, it means that Zhinüis weeping and the couple won’t be able to meet. The announcer said, “This is the story of Qiqiao Festival. When foreigners hear about the story, they call it a Chinese Valentine’s story. It’s a fine day today, so I hope you can call all meet the one you love.” As Li Fang set off for home, he thought, “I guess Hu Jin doesn’t love me. I’ll just throw these flowers and chocolates away. I don’t want them to remind me of her.” So he did. As he sadly passed the tea shop on the corner on his way home, he heard a voice calling him. There was Hu Jin waving at him and calling, “Why are you so late? I’ve been waiting for you for a long time! And I have a gift for you!” What would he do? He had thrown away her Valentine gifts! She would never forgive him. This would not be a happy Valentine’s Day!
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