Iroquois Midwinter Festival

Iroquois Midwinter Festival

January
This festival is the traditional midwinter ceremony of the Iroquois Indians in Canada and the United States, which also serves to usher in the new year. The ceremonies are dedicated to giving thanks to the Master of Life, or Creator, and also include prayers to Handsome Lake (Ganio'dai'io, 1735-1815), founder of the Iroquois Longhouse religion. The festival lasts eight or nine days. The first few days are concerned with conducting older traditional ceremonies, including the confession and renewal of each person, various other healing and purifying rites, and the False Face dance. The sacrifice of a white dog used to be part of the festival, but this practice has been abandoned. Out of the many ceremonies in the Iroquois tradition, Handsome Lake especially encouraged the Feather Dance, the Thanksgiving Dance, the Personal Chant, and the Bowl Game—known as "the four sacred rituals." The second half of the festival is devoted to fulfilling these.
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, Jan 10
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 835
EncyNatAmerRel-2001, p. 182
EncyRel-1987, vol. 7, p. 284
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 43
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