Rituals and festivals have been a part of traditional European life for many years. They involved all religions, social classes and happened in almost all areas throughout Europe. Back in these times, there were no forms of entertainment like television, cell phones and video games. People depended on one another to entertain themselves.
People in Europe would also be punished or tortured in front of the whole town to control public outbursts. An example of this is known as charivari. Some of these festivals and rituals were for political purposes too. Festivals and rituals of traditional European society mainly served as enjoyment, enforcement of public rules, and political purposes in daily life. Festivals and rituals were a type of fun and entertainment for Europeans. In a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, it shows a picture of Europeans at a carnival, enjoying the days before Lent.
Usually the days before lent people indulge themselves with alcohol. In the painting, it shows a man wearing a robe with a bucket as a crown of thorns and a stick as his cane. Jesus Christ is being mocked by representing the violence of Lent. This shows that the people are just enjoying the carnival because they are mocking their ruler (Wikipedia).
The picture also shows people running around with drinks and food and also playing games with each other (Doc. 3). In a document by R. Lassels, a French traveler, he comments on Italian Carnival customs. He states “All this festival activity is allowed the Italians that they may give a little vent to their spirits, which have been stifled for a whole year and are ready to choke with gravity and melancholy” (Doc. 5). Since Lassels is from France, it means he really does not know Italians.
So the fact that he said that the Italians really enjoy festivals is true because he could tell when he saw them at the carnival since he does not really know them (POV). In a comment made by Baltasar Rusow, a Lutheran pastor, he talks about the saint’s feast day festival. In one part of his comment, he states “Around these bonfires people danced, sang and leapt with great pleasure, and did not spare the bagpipes” (Doc. 2).
This quote shows that the Europeans were enjoying the festival. Baltasar Rusow is a Lutheran pastor, so since it was the saint’s day feast, he probably was there so he saw first-hand how happy the Europeans actually were (POV). Festivals and rituals let Europeans forget all the bad and have fun with each other. When someone did something wrong in a town, the whole village would come and punish them too. In a stang song from Lincolnshire England, they talked about a man who beat his wife and what they did to him.
The song reads “Old Abram Higback has been beating his good woman; but he neither told her for what or for why, but he up with his fist, and blackened her eye. Now all ye old women, and old women kind, get together and be of a mind; collar him and take him to the out-house, and shove him in. Now if that does not mend his manners, then take his skin to the tanners” (Doc. 9). This shows that if one person is in trouble or was being abused, the whole town would help you get payback. If there were no rituals then he would have gotten away with it. There were also rituals such as charivari that punished Europeans for crimes.
Charivari is also known as riding stang. A Russian official wrote about a woman who was ill after her punishment. He stated “A village policemen brought her before the village assembly, where they hung on her neck the basket of berries she had gathered, and the entire commune led her through the village streets with shout, laughter, songs, and dancing to the noise of washtubs, frying pans, and bells” (Doc. 10). Since the man was the officer that wrote the report, he may have been bias because he may have stretched the truth to make the situation worse than it actually was (POV). If there was not any ritual of punishment, the lady may have done it again.
It shows the rest of the people what will happen to them if they commit a similar crime. Punishments for offenses and crimes were often public and embarrassing. Charivari was a very scary thing for a person. Elizabeth Gaskell, an English author, talked about a woman who forced to ride stang after abusing the other sex. She said “They hunt the delinquent and mount her on their horse astride with her face to the tail. So they parade her through the nearest village or town, drowning her scolding and clamour with the noise of frying pans, just as you would scare a swarm of bees” (Doc. 8).
The purpose of riding was embarrassment. It makes an impact on the suspect and the rest of the town. This allowed the people in the town to enforce laws.
Europeans also used rituals and festivals to help support political ideas. A man named Giovanni di Carlo, a Dominican monk, wrote about when rich fathers and their sons would switch positions so the sons will know what to do when they are older. Giovanni says “their very sons had put on their clothes and the sons had learned all of their gestures, copying each and every one of their actions and habits in an admirable way” (Doc. 1). The sons learn everything about their father, even the clothes they wear.
It gives the father a chance to know what the sons go through and the sons to know how their father’s lives are. If this ritual was not in place, then the sons wouldn’t know what to expect when they are older or they wouldn’t have been able to bond with their dad. Henry Bourne, a man from Great Britain, commented on the rituals in the Scilly Islands. Henry states “The servant and his master are alike and everything is done with an equal freedom” (Doc. 6).
Since Henry is not from Scilly Bourne, he does not know for sure if the servants are treated fairly, making his point bias (POV). This quote shows that the king treats his servant like family because it is a ritual. A police inspector from Toulouse, France showed that certain festivals or arguments had a specific goal. The police officer said “When a royalist widower of the Couteliers neighborhood remarried, he began receiving raucous visits night after night. Most people who took too active a part were sent to the police court.
But that sort of prosecution was not very intimidating” (Doc. 7). This quote is saying that people really respect rituals and customs and if someone is going to break them they will be punished. People really cared about rituals and used festivals and punishment to show that they need to be followed.
Festivals and rituals of traditional European society mainly served as enjoyment, enforcement of public rules, and political purposes in daily life.
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