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A religious festival is a time of special importance marked by adherents to that religion. Religious festivals are commonly celebrated on recurring cycles in a calendar year or lunar calendar. Hundreds of very different religious festivals are held around the world each year.
Although the ancient Roman holiday of "Floralia", celebrated by the set of games and theatrical presentations known as the "Ludi Florales," began in April, it was really an ancient May Day celebration. Flora, the Roman goddess in whose honor the festival was held, was a goddess of flowers, which generally begin to bloom in the spring. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman caediles." The curule aediles produced the Ludi Florales. The position of curule aedile was originally (365 B.C.) limited to patricians, but was later opened up to plebians, too. The ludi were frequently very expensive for the aediles, but were used by them to win the affection and votes of the people, frequently allowing them to move to a greater magistrate.
The Floralia festival began in Rome in 238 B.C., to please the goddess Flora into protecting the blossoms. The Floralia fell out of favor and was discontinued until 173 B.C., when the senate, concerned with wind, hail, and other damage to the flowers, ordered Flora's celebration reinstated as the Ludi Florales. The Ludi Florales included theatrical events, including mimes, nude actresses and prostitutes. In the Renaissance, some writers thought that Flora had been a human prostitute who was turned into a goddess, possibly because of the licentiousness of the Ludi Florales or because, according to David Lupher, Flora was a common name for prostitutes in ancient Rome.
The celebration in honor of Flora included Florida wreaths worn in the hair much like modern participants in May Day celebrations. After the theatrical performances, the celebration continued in the Circus Maximus, where animals were set free and beans scattered to insure fertility.
Saturnalia is the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which took place on December 17. Over the years, it expanded to encompass the whole week, up to December 24. The Saturnalia was a large and important public festival in Rome. It involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch (lectisternium) set out in front of the temple of Saturn and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturn during the rest of the year. Besides the public rites there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately. The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed, even for slaves. It was a time to eat, drink, and be merry. The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e. colorful, informal "dinner clothes"; and the pileus (freedman's hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet: before, with, or served by the masters. A Saturnalicius princeps was elected master of ceremonies for the proceedings.
Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals which led to more tomfoolery, marked chiefly by having masters and slaves ostensibly switch places. The banquet, for example, would often be prepared by the slaves, and they would prepare their masters' dinner as well. It was license within careful boundaries; it reversed the social order without subverting it. The customary greeting for the occasion is a "io, Saturnalia!" — "io" (pronounced "ee-oo") being a Latin interjection related to "ho" (as in "Ho, praise to Saturn").
The central festival of Christianity is Easter, on which Christians celebrate their belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Even for Easter, however, there is no agreement among the various Christian traditions regarding the date or manner of the observance, less for Christmas, Pentecost, or various other holidays. In the Christian faith both Protestants and Catholics observe certain festivals commemorating events in the life of Christ. Of these, the two most important are Christmas, which is the Feast of Christ's nativity, and Easter, which marks the anniversary of Christ's resurrection. Easter was also an important Holiday to the ancient Pagans of Europe in celebration of the Vernal Equinox that marked the changing of the season from Winter to Spring. Originally Pagan, Ostara became Easter after the Christianization of Europe.
Messianic Judaism derives most of its liturgical influences directly from Judaism. It adds additional elements from the Christian tradition, since most outsiders would consider Christianity a form of Judaism. Appointed times, called moedim, follow the standard Jewish liturgical calendar, though additional hermeneutical applications are derived in light of the teachings Jesus of Nazareth.
Hindus observe sacred occasions by festive observances. All festivals in Hinduism are predominantly religious in character and significance. Many festivals are seasonal. Some celebrate harvest and birth of God or heroes. Some are dedicated to important events in Hindu mythology. Many are dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, Vishnu and Lakshmi and Brahma and Saraswati
A festival may be observed with acts of worship, offerings to deities, fasting, feasting, vigil, rituals, fairs, charity, celebrations, Puja, Homa, aarti etc. They celebrate individual and community life of Hindus without distinction of caste, gender or class.
'Utsava' is the Sanskrit word for Hindu festivals, meaning 'to cause to grow 'upward'.
Hindu festivals include:
Islamic religious festivals include:
A Jewish holiday (Yom Tov or chag in Hebrew) is a day that is holy to the Jewish people according to Judaism and is usually derived from the Hebrew Bible, specifically the Torah, and in some cases established by the rabbis in later eras. There are a number of festival days, fast days (ta'anit) and days of remembrance.
Sikh festivals include: