World Music Celebrations: Honoring A Saint, Banishing Spirits
Each week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), I take a look at festivals happening around the world along with the music of the cultures they represent. This week, we’re ridding the land of evil spirits in Japan, and celebrating St. Joseph in Spain.
The festival of Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain is a challenge to the senses. It's an auditory overload as fireworks and gunpowder explode continuously, and a visual explosion of enormous, colorful effigies known as ninots are touted around the streets, blazing with thousands of lights.
All this is to honor of that quiet almost obscure saint, Joseph. This fabulous festival originally started with workmen at the end of winter, burning off excess wood. With spring’s warmer temperatures, fires were not required to stay warm. From this the locals decided to combine the Feast of St. Joseph and the end of winter into five days and nights of jubilation. Needless to say, the enormous influx of tourists proved to be a welcome side effect.
Omizutori in Nara, Japan is a water festival, but it’s the flaming torches which provide the real excitement. The festival, held on March 13th, is to rid the atmosphere of bad spirits and advocate a cleansing of the body and mind for the spring period ahead. A group of specially chosen monks prepare for the event a week ahead of time. On the night of Omizutori, they race around the balconies of the Todai Shrine, wielding enormous blazing torches.
The expectant crowds below anticipate being showered by embers. If this occurs, you’ll be showered with good luck for the remainder of the year. The actual water drawing ceremony is not so spectacular, but it is still the reason for the celebration.
You can hear more about this and other celebrations happening around the world this and every Saturday on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM.