Art is created to last—or so do think many artists who believe they could gain immortality through their art.
One interesting fact is that around the world, festivals are held to celebrate the different kinds of arts such as the Edinburgh Fringe in the United Kingdom, the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland, and the Venice Carnival in Italy.
But not all that is created beautiful are meant to stay long. There are exquisite works that only last a season or so—the ice sculptures that amaze crowds in winter, the extravagant sand sculptures that populate the beaches in the summer, and the thousands of parade floats in various festivals all over the world.
Moreover, some festivals purposely destroy beautiful artwork. Read on about the different festivals you might want to add to your bucket list.
Hungry Ghost Festival, Hong Kong
The belief that the spirits of their loved ones come back once a year to mingle with the living is common among several cultures. In Mexico, this is called the Dia de Los Muertos and is celebrated through masquerades, cultural presentations, and merriment. Families put up altars in their homes displaying the photos of their deceased loved ones, believing that this would allow their spirits to find their way home.
In Hong Kong where ancestor worship is still strong, this belief has become known as the Hungry Ghosts Festival. It is believed that on the 15th night of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the gates of heaven and hell open. That night, the living must prepare offerings—things that their ancestors would be needing in their new world.
Although the spirits wander the land of the living for only a day, the festivities last for a month. A month before that night, residential communities in Hong Kong already set up elaborate structures in public spaces that house their gifts to their dead. Theater performances are also held, with seats left vacant, reserved for the roaming spirits. These structures are burned on the night of the hungry ghosts. Individual families also burn offerings outside their homes—these are usually paper money, and pictures of things that they want to send to their ancestors.
The Easter Carpets of Guatemala
Countries that have large populations of Roman Catholics continue the traditions done during the Holy Week. On the night before Easter Sunday, the body of Christ is carried in a procession through the streets, ending in a church where the Easter Vigil will be held.
In Antigua, Guatemala, this takes on a more elaborate practice. On the morning of Black Saturday, families gather in the streets, bringing with them vats of colorful sawdust. They work under the heat of the sun to form large intricate designs on the streets, making what would look like carpets of flowers—known as the alfombras—when done. Most of the families already have their mold, and they simply fill in the patterns with sawdust. However, some still take the effort of making their designs on the spot. After hours of patient work though, these beautiful carpets will be trudged on by the Easter Vigil procession. They would not even see the risen Lord. The practice is also done in San Salvador, El Salvador although on a lesser scale.
Loy Krathong, Thailand
Although not as intricate or as destructive as the others in the list, the Loy Krathong festival, which takes place on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, also gives participants a glimpse of fleeting beauty. Flower and candle arrangements—krathong—are offered to the Goddess of Water and are floated on bodies of water. Offices and companies usually assemble grander and bigger krathongs, and over the years, competitions have been held for the most beautiful krathongs.
Traditionally, these offerings are handmade from the banana tree trunk and banana leaves. They used to contain delicacies and goods as offerings. But the more popular krathongs now are adorned with flowers and candles.
The nearby countries of Cambodia and Myanmar, dominantly Buddhist countries, celebrate this festival as well. Thailand’s celebration has just attracted more tourists as it usually coincides with another festival associated with lights—Yi Peng—where they release sky lanterns into the air.
Art is not defined by its ability to withstand time. Rather, its value is taken from the importance and appreciation people give it. Every day, a work of art is created and perhaps another one is destroyed. But at one time, it served its purpose—to add beauty to our lives.
It might be some time before the borders open up again. However, it doesn’t mean we should put on hold our amazement and interest in the various cultures around the world. It would be a nice distraction to plan for our next travel destination while we temporarily enjoy what our localities offer.