(January - March) (April - June) (July - September) (October - December)

Festivals - July to September

Projects highlighted in yellow are featured in Paola's book Celebrating Women.


FINLAND. World Wife Carrying Championships. In the nineteenth century it was common practice for men to steal wives from neighboring villages, which they trained to do by carrying sacks on their backs and negotiating an obstacle course. Today, men from many countries carry women and race down a 253 meter track, over hurdles and through a pond. Participating couples need not be married, which allows men to select the lightest women to carry--although there is a disincentive to do this: first prize includes the woman’s weight in beer. (Sonkajarvi)

FRANCE. Feast Day of Mary Magdalene. Thirteenth century costumes, ancient hymns, dances inspired by flutes, drums and cymbals are all part of a procession in which Mary Magdalene’s skull is carried in a reliquary by twelve men from the church of Saint Maximim to the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene. (Saint Maximim, Provence)

INDIA. Ambuchi Festival. Pilgrims celebrate the earth’s menstrual cycle at the temple they believe is the epicenter of the feminine: the pith where Sati’s yoni fell to earth while her bereft husband carried her through the heavens. At this time of year, monsoons cause the water in the temple’s lower chambers to flow through iron, so it is rust-colored; Goddess Kamyakha is menstruating. (Kamakhya Temple, Nilachal Hill, Guwahati, Assam)

INDIA. Nag Panchami (Thapan Festival). This festival, which began in the seventeenth century, honors Mansa, the queen of serpents, and is linked to fertility. Devotees catch live cobras, and keep them in earthen pots, which they carry on their heads in a long procession. After the ritual, the snakes are set free in the temple courtyard, sprinkled with flowers and offered milk and honey. Then the snakes are put back in the pots and carried on carts through the hamlets. One or two are let loose in front of each house; girls regard cobras as good luck in marriage. (Baltis Shirale, Maharashtra; West Bengal; Assam; Orissa)

INDIA. Teej Festival. This is a royal festival dedicated to the Goddess Parvati. The procession includes decorated elephants, horses, camels, dancers and an image of Parvati on an elephant. Women worship the Mother Goddess and distribute sweets. Specially decorated swings are hung from the trees and women, dressed in bright green, swing from them. Parvati is asked to bless her devotees with conjugal harmony and bliss. (Jaipur, Rajasthan)

ITALY. Festa Della Donne. This tiny town still celebrates the local women’s defense of its castle in 1522 when Picozzo Brancaleoni laid siege. (Scheggino)

JAPAN. Amaterasü-o-mi-kami Festival. The great festival of the Sun Goddess who, according to Shinto legend, is the ancestress of all Japanese emperors. When Amaterasü’s brother got drunk and invaded her rice fields and temples once too often, the Goddess sought sanctuary in a mountain cave; the world plunged into darkness. Uzume, the Goddess of Merriment, put a mirror in front of the cave and Amaterasu, never having seen her own beauty, was lured outside.

JAPAN. Shirongo Matsuri. More than 200 women divers compete, gathering abalone off the eastern short of the island. The first two abalone are offered to the deity of the Shirahige shrine. (Shugajima-town, Suga Island, Toba City, Mie Prefecture)

MEXICO. Guelaguetza. This folk-dancing festival has its roots in pre-Columbian times when villagers honored the ancient Zapotec goddess, Centeotl, with song and dance to win her blessing for a bountiful corn harvest. Today, dancing in the amphitheater includes the women’s Pineapple Dance. Performers often throw gifts to the audience. (Fortin Hill, Oaxaca )

NEW GUINEA. Yam Harvest Festival. A wife’s clan has responsibility for filling the yam house—the Chief’s, then brothers-in-law, then sons-in-laws’ silos. Status within the village depends on the size and quality of a family’s yams. Men carry the yams and women form the front and rear guard in processions to display a family’s yam farming prowess. Although marriages are monogamous here, mutually-agreed on flings are permitted once a year during the Yam Harvest festival. (Trobriand Islands)

PORTUGAL. Festa dos Tabuleiros (Festival of the Trays). This festival grew from Ceres’ fourteenth century fertility festival. Adolescent girls parade, carrying on their heads bread loaves laced with flowers and vines. Headdresses are as tall as the girls and always heavy enough to prove that the maidens are strong enough for childbirth. (Held every fourth year; next festival in 2015. Tomar)

SPAIN. Saint Mary Magdalena Feast. Young men in swirling skirts dance on wooden stilts during the street procession’s Danza de los Zancos. The music: bagpipes, drums and castanets. (Anguiano)

SPAIN. Romeria de Santa Marta. Santa Marta is believed to heal the sick. People who have had near death experiences in the past year ride in open coffins carried by their friends and family, to give her thanks for their very lives. (Santa Marta de Ribarteme, Galicia)

SPAIN. Virgin del Carmen. The island’s main festival celebrates the Patroness of the Fishermen. A flotilla of fishing boats comes to honor her. (Formentera)

UNITED STATES. Apache Maiden’s Puberty Rights Ceremonial. Young Apache women engage in a sacred, four-day ceremony that transforms each from a young woman into White Shell Woman, the mother of the Apache. (Mescalaero Apache Reservation near Ruidoso, New Mexico)

UNITED STATES. Green Corn Festival. Starting about noon on the main day of the festival, Creek Indian women participate in the three-hour Ribbon Dance. Four women, appointed for life by the elders, lead the dance, which is performed single file in four circles. The women wear dangling turtle shells filled with pebbles, which act as percussion instruments. Men sing and play drums as accompaniment. (Oklahoma)

UNITED STATES. Tekakwitha Conference. When Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American Catholic woman, died in 1676, her smallpox scars vanished instantly; she was beatified in 1980. This conference strives to unify Native American Catholics and is sometimes attended by women from 120 different tribes who convene for rituals and workshops. (Locations vary; see http://www.tekconf.org/)


BOLIVIA. Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña. Mother Earth and the Virgin join forces to grant people’s requests for material goods. Hundreds of thousands come to ask for television sets, trucks and Tudor houses. And to witness two days of folk dancing by hundreds of Quechua tribal celebrants. (Quillacollo)

BRAZIL. Festa da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte. Women who lead local Candomblé houses celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Their sisterhood was founded by freed slave women who bought freedom for other Afro-Brazilian slaves. (Cachoeira, Bahia)

CHINA. The Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden. Since the Weaving Maiden is considered the patron spirit of women’s work, this is primarily a women’s festival. It celebrates the annual reunion of the Weaving Maiden, a fairy who lives on the moon, and her human husband. Single women offer paper combs, mirrors, flowers, cosmetics, fruit and sewing kits, all in sets of seven—one each for the Weaving Maiden and her six sisters. (National; also Malaysia and Japan)

FRENCH WEST INDES. Fête de Cuisinères. Creole cooks dressed in bright, traditional attire, parade their best dishes through the streets and serve a feast to hundreds for guests. (Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, French West Indies)

GREECE. Panagia (Virgin Mary). Thousands of pilgrims crawl on their knees up the steps to the church that holds the holy icon. Feasts, services and dancing take place in the monasteries. (Tinos; Agiassos)

INDIA. Ganesh Chaturthi. Goddess Parvati immaculately created Lord Ganesh with bath oil. She sent him outside to guard the house while she was bathing. When his father, Lord Shiva came home, Ganesh wouldn’t let him enter. Shiva got mad and cut off Ganesh’s head. Parvati, furious, told Shiva to replace it with the head of the first sleeping animal he saw. Hence, the elephant head. Giant Ganesh images are dragged into the sea as the crowd goes wild. First celebrated in 1892. (Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai, Maharastra)

INDIA. Haritalika. The Goddess Gauri is the green and golden goddess of the harvests. Women fast, then wear green bangles, green clothes and golden bindis (dots between their eyebrows). They give painted coconuts to their female friends and relatives, and offer green vegetables to the Goddess in thanksgiving. (North India)

INDIA. Nanda Devi Raj Jat. This festival occurs only every 12 years and is based on a ninth century royal pilgrimage for the mother goddess, Devi. The celebration resembles the Hindu post-nuptial rite of seeing a daughter off as she moves to her husband’s family’s home. (Chamoli district, Garh, Rajasthan)

INDIA. Raksha Bandhan. Women tie a string bracelet (rakhi) around the wrist of their brothers and in return, brothers give their sisters a small gift (usually money) and protection. Some women tie rakhis around the Prime Minister’s wrist, or soldiers’. In the north and west, women tie the strings around the wrists of boys and men who have no sisters.

INDIA. Tarnetar Mela Festival. Three-day festival during which participants arrive on camels to celebrate the ancient marriage of Arjuna and Draupadi. There are music, folk dances and bride shopping. (Tarnetar)

IRELAND. Rose of Tralee Festival. This six-day festival exists to search for a girl as lovely as a rose. Irish girls from all over the world convene to compete for the title. Not an average beauty pageant, this festival includes pipe bands, parades, street dancing, fireworks, carnivals--plus donkey and greyhound races. (Tralee)

JAPAN. Star Festival. This festival grows from an ancient legend of forbidden love between a princess and a peasant boy. Throughout the country, people write love poems on banners. The town decorates with streamers; there are parades; fireworks. Young people are permitted to spend the evening together unchaperoned and the adults are encouraged, this one night, to speak their hearts’ feelings. (Hiratsuka; Sendai)

MEXICO. Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Images of Mary are borne skyward on homemade rockets. Streets are carpeted with designs of flower petals or colored sawdust and the image of the Virgin is carried over these on a float. The next morning, bulls rush through the streets. (Huamantla, Tlaxcala state)

NEPAL. Teej. Hindu women pray for marital bliss, the wellbeing of their husbands and children, and the purification of their own bodies and souls. Day 1: women wear their best clothes for feasting, dancing and singing devotional songs, then fast for 24 hours. Day 2: puja to the Goddess Parvati and her husband, Lord Shiva. Day 3: women bathe with leaves and red mud from the roots of the sacred Datiwan bush, to absolve themselves of sin. (Pashupatinat Temple, Kathmandu)

NIGERIA. Oshun Festival. The nine-day festival of Oshun, the Yoruba River Goddess of fertility, includes ancestor worship, feasts, music, acrobats, contortionists, dancing. On the final day, 20,000 people don their best cult clothes and jewelry to accompany chiefs riding horses under silk umbrellas, to Oshun’s river shrine. The Chief Priestess scatters food for the fish (special messengers of Oshun) and prays for fertility. Newly-nursing mothers thank the Goddess. After a pact of mutual protection between the Goddess and her people is sealed, everyone rushes into the river to bathe and collect holy water in pots. (Oshogbo)

POLAND. Our Lady of the Herbs. Village housewives gather herbs and flowers from the garden, fields and forests. The priest blesses these bouquets, which heightens their power as medicines and seasonings.

SCOTLAND. Festival of the Horse. Little girls between the ages of 3 and 15 dress in horse costumes sewn by their grannies, aunties and mothers. Their colorful, sparkly outfits are inspired by Clydesdale horse decorations. Tails are sewn onto jackets; pom poms and fringes, onto cuffs. (South Ronaldsay, Orkney Island)

SPAIN. Festa do Polbo/Fiesta de Pulpo. Visitors have a picnic in the town where all “The Octopus Ladies” live, cook and serve the famous regional specialty: octopus boiled, cut into pieces, seasoned with oil, salt and paprika. (Parque Municipal, Carballiño, Ourense Province, Galicia, Spain)

SWAZILAND. Umhlanga (Reed Dance). All the virgins in the country converge at the Queen Mother’s compound, from which they leave to trek to the river. There, they cut reeds to build a windbreak around the royal palace, trek back to the Queen Mother’s and dance for two days. (Lobamba)

TAIWAN. Chung Yuan Ghost Month Festival. According to legend, after Mu Lan’s evil, selfish mother died, a monk advised him that her salvation could be achieved only if all monks and nuns prayed for her and if Mu Lan offered food and drink to all lost souls. During Ghost Month, Buddhist temples overflow with meat, fish and vegetables. There are procession with floats, bands and lanterns that are set ablaze and sent to sea. (Chu Pu Tan Temple, Keelung)

UNITED STATES. Belly Dancing Festival. Hundred of participants belly dance on two stages while others take three-hour workshops to learn ancient Grecian veil rituals and Zeffah wedding ceremonies. Vendors sell exotic scarves, jangling jewelry and music. (Snowbird, Utah.)

UNITED STATES. Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. During the week, 40 women’s musical groups perform day and night for 5,000 women participants who camp in the woods not far from Lake Michigan. Three hundred workshops teach everything from drumming to bike mechanics. Activities include a women’s film festival and craft exhibition. (two hours from Grand Rapids, Michigan)

UNITED STATES. Our Lady of Miracles Celebration. Portuguese-Americans celebrate for three days, blessing the cows, singing and dancing, praying, watching bloodless bullfights, and feasting. The highlight is the Queen’s procession: girls wearing velvet, satin, embroidered, bejeweled capes stitched by elderly women from the Azores. (Gustine; Hanford, California)

UNITED STATES. WiminFest. A three-day festival of women’s visual and performance art, plus lesbian culture. Exhibitions of the work of women from all cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic and artistic backgrounds. (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

VANUATU. Nekowiar (Toka Dance). Men, wearing tasseled skirts and painted hair, leap in a frenzy and try to trap women in their dance circles. Catching one, they toss her up and down, fondle and pinch her. This continues all night. In the morning: pigs are slaughtered; everyone feasts. (Tanna Island)


CHINA. Zhong Qiu Jie (Mooncake or Mid-Autumn Festival). One legend says The Moon Fairy lives in a crystal palace and dances at night on the moon’s surface. Another says that an Empress swallowed an imortality pill and became the moon. This festival celebrates the moon with lanterns shaped like dragons, butterflies, rabbits and fish and everyone enjoys mooncakes (pastries with sweet or savory centers). (Chinese communities worldwide)

ETHIOPIA. Maskal Festoval. This festival has been celebrated for 1600 years to honor Empress Helena who discovered the cross on which Christ was crucified. One hundred thousand spectators watch floats carrying illuminated crosses. Pilgrims in traditional dress dance around bonfires until dawn. (Addis Ababa)

MOROCCO. Moussem of Imilchil. Widows and divorcees look for husbands during this Ait-Haddidou tribal festival where 30,000 people camp in tents for three days. If they women have good luck, they (and their engaged, single sisters) go with their grooms to register the marriages; music and dancing follow. (Agadoul, High Atlas Mountains)

SINGAPORE. Lantern Festival. Legend says that during the Han Dynasty a little Chinese girl tricked the Emperor into having a wonderful festival that would give her a reason to visit her family. Today, for ten days, illuminated lanterns shaped like tigers, flamingos, swans and all manner of creatures, are illuminated in pagodas, malls, markets and schools. (Chinese Garden, Singapore)

SOUTH KOREA. Ch’usok. Legend says that Korean princesses led two groups, each comprised of half the women in the kingdom, in a cloth-weaving competition. The group that produced less prepared a feast for the winners. Today, this festival remembers ancestors and celebrates the harvest. The highlight is kang-gang-suwollae, a circle dance women perform wearing in their prettiest dresses.

UNITED STATES. Miss America Competition. Fifty-one state finalists compete to become Miss America for one year, on the basis of their agendas for social change, talent, poise, fitness, and awareness of current events. (Atlantic City, New Jersey)

UNITED STATES. Na Wahine O Ke Kai Canoe Race. Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women of the Sea) race Hawaiian-style canoes through the treacherous Kaiwi Channel. (Hale O Lono Harbor, Oahu)

UNITED STATES. Ripe Corn Festival. Cherokees celebrate Selu, First Woman, who created corn by rubbing around her stomach, and beans by rubbing around her breasts.