What’s Your Dewey: 394.26 General Customs – A Festive Approach

 While some may think of Christmas as the ‘Festive Season’, I have come to the conclusion that it’s always ‘the festive season’ based on the number of Festivals there are to enjoy. Currently mid-Fringe in Adelaide, festival goers will soon be able to attend Womadelaide, Adelaide Festival of Arts, Writer’s Week, Dream Big Children’s Festival and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. That brings us to June but in truth, there is a Festival to be had all year round and not just in the city. This got me thinking about Festivals in general so I decided to take a look at what books I could find on the topic.

The easiest place to begin (apart from the appropriate Dewey of course), are the children’s shelves in the 394.26 section. It seems there are many books written for children on the topic, highlighting particular festivals, customs and observances based on religious, political or seasonal perspectives.

One set of titles catching my attention is part of the Discovering History series Our Special Days. Divided into 4 separate books, the collection takes an in-depth look at 12 special days celebrated in Australia for each quarter of the year.
jan9781442559738January to March, the first quarter of the year, includes Australia Day, Vietnamese New Year and Harmony Day.
ap9781442559745April to June,  the second quarter, includes Anzac Day, Vesak Day and National Sorry Day.
jul9781442559752July to September looks at days celebrated during the third quarter of the year and  includes National Aboriginal and Islander Day, Children’s Day, Vietnam Veterans’ Day and Australian Citizenship Day.
oc9781442559769October to December, the last book in the set, includes Diwali, Remembrance Day and International Volunteer Day.
Although published in 2012, this book set is very accessible and a great place to start to find out about Australian celebrations, commemorations and special days. The books also looks at the history and development of these special occasions.

Still browsing for things in Australia, I couldn’t help but pause at this book.

elvis9781742235295-jpg-400x0_q20Outback Elvis : the story of a festival, its fans and a town called Parkes  by John Connell & Chris Gibson is told by two long-term devotees of a festival held in the middle of the outback summer and dedicated to a man who never visited Australia. Reviewer Janet (bluewolf-reviews.com) asks:
‘Where do thousands of people in wigs, jumpsuits and fake Priscilla eyelashes go each January to swelter in 42-degree heat as they celebrate The King? Parkes, of course – 365 kilometres west of Sydney – for the annual Parkes Elvis Festival’. You can read the full review here: http://bit.ly/2ltxCWD
and reserve a copy here: http://bit.ly/2mc7pzm

santacover-jpg-rendition-460-707Still on the whimsical (at least I thought at first sight), The indisputable existence of Santa Claus by Dr Hannah Fry and Thomas Oléron Evans applies mathematics to the art of Christmas celebration  ‘to extract every possible ounce of fun and joy for the day’. Diagrams, equations, matrices, Markov chains, graphs and much more, are used to answer pertinent questions like Who should be on your Christmas shopping list ? and Is Santa getting steadily thinner – shimmying up and down chimneys for a whole night – or fatter – as he tucks into a mince pie and a glass of sherry in billions of houses across the world?  Chapters include Decorating the tree, Buying Presents, Secret Santa, Wrapping Presents, Cooking Turkey and Watching Santa’s weight. Although it has a strong English bias (with some USA inclusions), the book provides a quirky perspective on an often hectic time for many. On the up-side, it may just save some angst for next Christmas for the more mathematically minded. Take a quick look inside here: http://amzn.to/2m6hv53

festy61ivrty2-l-_sx383_bo1204203200_Looking further afield, Around the World in 500 Festivals by Steve Davey is a beautifully presented travelogue of some of the world’s most spectacular and joyous celebrations, large and small, which occur around the world every day. Festivals are alphabetically listed by country and region. This is a fascinating look at the way people celebrate and what they celebrate. It gives readers great cultural insights to otherwise unknown places and people. More can be found at Davey’s website: http://www.stevedavey.com/500festivals.html
or you can reserve a copy here: http://bit.ly/2lo12oo

Then of course comes the why – Why do people have the need to find ways to celebrate and commemorate?
Dancing in the streets : a history of collective joy by Barbara Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture’. Ehrenreich examines the history of early gatherings, the ongoing conflict between authoritarian agents (church and government) and the persistence of communal celebratory gatherings despite sometimes fierce opposition. Although at first glance this has the feel of an academic title (and there is certainly academic merit to the book), there is much detail to engage and give thought. Ehrenreich draws her research from anthropology, psychology, history and modern popular culture. The text is lively and engaging and raises some interesting insights into the power and benefits of community celebration to society and the individual.

If your reading preferences specifics and details, there are many titles devoted to specific people and their customs, and specific religious, national or political celebrations.  There are also books on the multitude of festivals devoted to human artistic endeavors; film-making, writing, painting and music to name a few. If simply reading is something you like to celebrate, then why not try the Festive Approach?

Nola Cavallaro



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