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Festivals of Western Europe, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, [1958], at


    "Tradition ties the past to the present and is the link which binds the past to the future," according to Camillo de Castello Branco, Portugal's great nineteenth-century novelist.

    I have written FESTIVALS OF WESTERN EUROPE as one who loves the old in relation to the new, and looks upon the past as the heritage of the future. Festas, fairs, holy days, pilgrimages and patronal village feasts--all these events have come down through the centuries, and intermingled with the traditions of the church and the lives of peasant folk. Festivals once held to honor pagan deities have become associated in the course of time with the saints' days of the Christian calendar. Ancient fertility rites have been transmuted into parish ceremonies to welcome spring and ensure growth of crops and health to beasts. The fires once kindled to light the Sun God on his dark midwinter journey through the heavens now glow brightly in honor of the Christ Child's birth.

    Thus it is that festivals and ceremonies observed in European countries today have origins which are lost in the mists of time. These traditional events are a treasury from which we draw knowledge of peoples, places and customs. Without the past there could be no present, just as without the present there can be no future. This is why tradition is important.

I have written about European festivals as a reporter who, through the years, has visited many countries and participated in many joyous traditional events. I have described customs and ceremonies as I have witnessed them or have learned of them through reliable sources. To make the book more practical festival descriptions are supplemented by reference material which includes a table of Easter dates and movable festivals dependent upon Easter, a glossary of some common festival terms and a list of sources in different languages.

    Numerous items in FESTIVALS OF WESTERN EUROPE are revisions or duplications of material that originally appeared in my earlier work, The Book of Festivals, published by the Woman's Press in 1937 and long out of print. The rights in this publication have reverted to the author.

    FESTIVALS OF WESTERN EUROPE includes descriptions of some of the principal festal events of twelve different countries. The geographical basis of selection is an imaginary line, drawn from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic. Roughly speaking, everything to the left of this line is "western European," although at various points pieces of the different countries spill over the line on one side or the other.

    The basis of festival selection has been more difficult than determining geographical areas. For each country the cycle of the Christian year has been followed as a skeleton to which local saints' days and regional celebrations have been added. In most countries each tiny hamlet has its own special fetes. Each village celebrates its patronal feast with its own rituals, foods, and folkways. Since few "outsiders" ever hear of these feast days, customs practiced in one village often are totally unknown in the next. Out of hundreds of such days, especially in countries where "every day is a festa," I have tried to select events that are typical of certain localities or varieties of peasant culture.

    No national or political holidays have been included, or "festivals" in the sense of those periodical seasons of entertainment so popular among European tourists. The festivals I have described are the religious feast days and the anniversaries of "days of joy" which occur in the annals of the church and are deeply rooted in the hearts of peasant people.

    Since folklore is probably the most fluid of all sciences, inaccuracies are bound to occur, despite careful checking, in any book depends largely upon folk tradition and folk memory for its source. Additional hazards are met in dealing with a variety of languages and dialects not only from one country to another, but often within the same country. Nuances of meaning and emotion are blurred or lost in translating from a foreign tongue. In many instances archaic words, or words known only to certain localities, occur in the folk rhymes and verses that accompany certain festivals. For this reason I have consistently sought to retain native flavor rather than give literal translations.

    I have given the English version of the festival in parentheses immediately following each foreign title. When festivals local in significance or with special regional characteristics are described, the name of the town or village in which the celebration occurs follows the English title. In order that the locale may be accurately identified, I have also given the larger geographical area.

* * *

    I wish it might be possible to acknowledge my indebtedness to the many people in many countries who have contributed to the making of this book; for wherever the festival trail has led me, I have met with friendliness and genuine eagerness to share time-honored traditions with someone from afar. Thus I have experienced the joy of "belonging," so to speak, to widely different lands and cultures, and a difficult research task has been lightened by the warmth of happy human relationships.

    I wish to give special thanks for generous help in translating from foreign languages, checking manuscript and many other services to the individuals and organizations listed below under the various countries. I also acknowledge indebtedness for much material to the sources given at the end of the book under Some Helpful Books:

  BELGIUM: Belgian Government Information Center, New York City.

  DENMARK: Danish Information Office, New York City.

  FRANCE: Mesdemoiselles Jeanne Pons and Henriette F. Liboz.

  GERMANY: German Tourist Information Office, New York City.

  ITALY: Italian State Tourist Office, New York City.

  LUXEMBOURG: Mr. George J. Kremer, in Echternach, who acted as my host and established many helpful local contacts, the late Mr. Corneille Staudt, Consul of Luxembourg, and Miss Yolande Loesch, Deputy Commissioner of Industry and Tourism, Consulat General du Grand Duche de Luxembourg, New York City.

  NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands information Service, New York City. Dr. Jacomina Korteling, in Deventer, interpreted for me and I am indebted to her for research and translation. I am also indebted to Mr. J. M. Lentfest, De Twentsche Bank, in Denekamp, for interpreting and establishing contacts; Mr. Th. E. G. Looman, in Denekamp, for the Dutch version of the Denekamp Easter Hymn; Mr. Scholten Lubberink, klompenmaker in Denekamp, for information on the winter horn; Mr. Toon Borghuis, in Oldenzaal, for songs and information on Overijssel customs; Pastor Eerwaarde Jan Bolscher, in Beuningen, for local folk material.

  NORWAY: Norwegian National Travel Office, New York City.

  PORTUGAL: Mr. Joaquim G. de Vasconcellos, from Casa de Portugal, New York City; Sisters of Colegio do Sagrado Coracao de Maria, in Guimaraes, my hostesses during Festis Gualterianas, who made contacts for me and helped in many ways; Miss Juanita Parsons.

  SPAIN: Spanish National Tourist Department, New York City.

  SWEDEN: Mr. Holger Lundbergh and Mr. Stig Nasholm of The American Swedish News Exchange, Inc., New York City.

  SWITZERLAND: Public Relations Department, Swiss National Tourist Office, New York City; Mrs. Maarten Bos, in White Plains, New York.

DOROTHY GLADYS SPICER White Plains, New York December 1957

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