FESTIVALS, or FEASTS (Lat. festum, probably from the same root as fast (q.v.); according to some, from Gr. hestia, hearth), a term denoting certain periodically recur ring days and seasons set aside by a community for rest from the ordinary labor of life, and more or less hallowed by religious solemnities. Originating within the narrow circle of the family, and commemorating momentous events affecting one member or all, these pauses became more frequent, and of wider scope, as the house gradually expanded into a tribe, a people, a state. The real or imaginary founders, legislators, heroes, became objects of veneration and deification, and the salient epochs of their lives the consecrated epochs of the year. National calamities or triumphs were, in the absence of 'annals, best remembered by corresponding general days of humiliation or exultation. Earliest of all, however, did the marked stages in ,the onward march of nature; spring and autumn, seed-time and harvest-time—symbols of life and death; the solstices—turning-points of summer and winter; the new moon and the full moon; the termination of cycles of moons and cycles of years, present themselves as opportune halting-places for man himself. No less were the all-important periodical rises of fertil izing rivers. and the anniversaries of importations and inventions of new implements for the better cultivation of the soil, or tending of the flocks, befittingly celebrated. The inherent human tendency towards referring all things of graver import, life and death, abundance and want, victory and defeat, to a higher power, could not but infuse a religious feeling into epochs so marked. Fostered and guided by priests and lawgivers, this property of our nature erelong found its expression in common sacrifices, prayers. and ceremonies, consecrated to the various superior and minor deities who presided over and inhabited the elements of the visible and invisible creation, and who, working all the changes within them, acted, each in his sphere, as a partial providence over man. According to the event which called them forth, these F. were mournful' or joyous, jubilant or expiatory. Even when sorrow was to be expressed, the mortification of the body did not always suffice, but plays, songs, dances, and processions full of boisterous mirth, were resorted to—as in the F. of Isis at Busiris, of Mars at. Papremis, in the
Adonia of Egypt, Phenicia, and Greece—because the divine wrath or sorrow was, like that of man, to be changed into satisfaction. Besides the relation between the common tutelary deity and those he protected, the bond also by which the otherwise disconnected members of the body-politic were held together was, by means of these festive gather ings, periodically brought in view, and invested with greater strength and importance. Apart, however, from this their historical, astronomical, religious, and political end, P. served another purpose—that of growing civilization. It was the glowing spirit of emulation which, stimulating the gifted in mind and body to strive for the festive laurel in contests of genius and skill, in honor of the gods, and in the face of all the people, matured all that was noble and brilliant within the community. Archaic rudeness and rustic extravagance became refined grace and classic harmony. The stirring drama, the glorious anthem, the melodious dance, the elegant game, which accompanied the festive sacrifice of some nations at their highest stage of development, had arisen out of those very mimicries and shouts, rude and savage beyond expression, of generations not long before them. Enthusiastic, wild, metaphysical Egypt invested the countless days con secrated to her deified stars, plants, animals, and ideas; to the Nile, to Ammon, Kneph, Menes, Osiris; to Horus, to Neitha, to Ptah, with a mystery, sensuality, and mournful ness always exaggerated, sometimes monstrous. The Hindu, no longer daring to offer human sacrifices, shows his odd and cruel materialism by throwing into the waves, on his festival of rivers, some of his costliest goods, gold, jewels, garments, and instru ments; while in the licentiousness and debaucheries perpetrated on the festival of Shiva, the god of procreation, or on the Bacchantics of the goddess Bhavani, lie exceeds even those of the Egyptians on their Neitha feasts at Bubastis, and the Greek worship of Venus in her Cyprian groves. Phenicians and Assyrians, Babylonians and Phry gians, according to the little we know of their religions and manners, appear to have feasted, thanked, propitated, mourned all at different times, and in the way most befit ting their several natures, even in the case of those gods and F. which they had in common.