Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Feast of the (Guatemala)

August 15
Roman Catholics believe that the body of Mary, rather than undergoing death and decay, entered heaven along with her soul, an event that is commemorated in the Feast of the Assumption ( see Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast of the). In the Guatemalan town of Santa Cruz del QuichÉ, the Feast of the Assumption is combined with the Fiestas Elenas (August 16-20) and celebrated for nearly a week.
The fiesta's highlight is the famous Snake Dance. Also known as the Dance of the Jesters, this was a Native American dance that the Spanish priests tried to stamp out. They were not successful because the secret societies that executed the dances did so in caves and other secret locations unknown to the Spanish.
The dance involves the use of live snakes, some of them poisonous, which are captured in the mountains and brought back to town in jars. In order to prevent the snakes from poisoning anyone, the venom is removed in advance or else someone sews the snakes' mouths shut. As the energy of the dance reaches its peak the snakes are released and permitted to writhe about on the dance floor. Each of the dancers scoops up a snake and lets it wrap itself around his limbs while continuing to dance. Occasionally the snake goes down a dancer's blouse or jacket, and the audience roars with laughter if the snake manages to escape through a trouser leg.
One of the dancers wears a fur-trimmed suit and carries a stuffed fox. As he lunges at the audience in a threatening way, kids approach him from behind and yank on the fox's tail. According to legend, the stuffed fox represents the earth's fertility, while the serpent symbolizes the rain that bestows life on the earth. It is probably related to the feathered serpent, a predominant Mesoamerican symbol.
Guatemala Tourist Commission
299 Alhambra Cir., Ste. 510
Coral Gables, FL 33134
888-464-8281 or 305-442-0651; fax: 305-442-1013
DictSymb-1971, p. 289
FiestaTime-1965, p. 129

Celebrated in: Guatemala

Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Feast of the (Hasselt, Belgium)
Third and fourth Sundays in August every seven years
In Hasselt, the capital of the Belgian province of Limburg, the festival known as Virge Jesse (Virgin of the Line of Jesse) takes place on the third and fourth Sundays in August every seven years. Local lore states that in medieval times an image of the Virgin was propped up against a great tree which stood at the crossroads near the present-day site of Hasselt. Those whose journeys took them past the image often stopped there to pray for safe travels and to make an offering to the Virgin. By the 14th century, tales concerning the Virgin's blessings began to attract pilgrims from far and near the image at the crossroads.
Today's ceremonies feature a procession with a dark, ancient image of the Virgin, said by townsfolk to be the same one that once stood against the tree at the crossroads. Bearers carry the image, draped in a black velvet mantle, through town and under a progression of arches that represent important episodes in the city's past.
Assumption Day is an official holiday in Belgium.
Belgian National Tourist Office
220 E. 42nd St., Ste. 3402
New York, NY 10017
212-758-8130; fax: 212-355-7576
BkFest-1937, p. 46
FestWestEur-1958, p. 15

Celebrated in: Belgium

Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Feast of the (Italy)
August 15
Colorful processions through the streets and displays of fireworks mark the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption in Italy, as they do in Italian-American communities throughout the United States. In Sicily and rural areas outside of Rome, a Bowing Procession is the day's main event. A statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the town to a ceremonial arch of flowers, where a group of people holding a statue of Christ awaits her arrival. Both statues are inclined toward each other three times, and then the Christ figure precedes that of Mary back to the parish church for a special benediction. The journey to the arch symbolizes Mary's sojourn on earth, the arch itself represents the gate of heaven, and the trip back to the church represents her entrance into heaven.
Italian Government Tourist Board
630 Fifth Ave., Ste. 1565
New York, NY 10111
212-245-5618; fax: 212-586-9249
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 207

Celebrated in: Italy

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
About 150 members - comprising British subjects, refugees and asylum seekers - have been residing at All Hallows Church, sleeping in the pews, taking part in quiet prayer, fasting and cooking simple meals during the build-up to the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
More than 50 festivals and events have been scrapped countrywide following last month's attacks, including fireworks displays to mark the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on Aug.
Glorifying Virgin Mary in Ramadan "Today is Eid al 3adra, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to Heaven, and it falls during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

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