Enjoying Ethnic Enclaves XXX There’s something about the crunch of leaves underfoot and the hints of an upcoming winter that just makes people want to celebrate. But don’t limit yourself to the traditional Americana of Thanksgiving and Halloween. The United States contains a mix of peoples with their own festivals, and it turns out that for all the cultural differences, deep down we all just want an excuse to eat, dance, and celebrate.
From left: courtesy of InterContinental Hong Kong, photo by Salina Canizales, Tracy O, Brandon Milner, flickr name prayitno
XXXAutumn Moon Festival San Francisco, California
Bedecked in red banners, the color of luck, the closed streets of San Francisco’s historic Chinatown fill with traditional music and the sweet allure of vendor food during the Autumn Moon Festival, a celebration of Chinese culture and tradition, as lion dancers roam the streets during the dragon parade. Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, this holiday typically falls in late September or early October and is easily recognized for its beautiful moon cakes: holiday fruit cake delicacies that are just one of the many traditions this holiday passes from one generation to the next. ▶▶
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XXXCelebraciones de Gente Flagstaff, Arizona
Literally a Celebration of People, this annual festival is a celebration of Hispanic cultures. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), an ancient holiday normally celebrated November 1 with pre-Columbian roots known for its gaily dressed skulls and skeletons, comes a bit early for Flagstaff, Arizona. The last weekend in October, the Museum of Northern Arizona and Nuestras Raices (Our Roots) work to bring the old ways to a new generation with songs, dances, and calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls).
Mariachi performances and traditional ofrendas (altars) allow visitors to honor the dead and celebrate the living in the Museum’s courtyard. ▶▶
XXXLongs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival Estes Park, Colorado
The sound of pipes and the banging of drums welcomes you the Highland Festival, an event that combines the spectacle of caber tossing and stone throwing along with the more kitsch Renaissance faire–fare of turkey legs and jousting. A celebration of Celtic heritage held September 5–8, men wear their clan Tartans with pride, and people of all ages compete in the many tests of strength and agility, including Irish and Scottish dance competitions. But don’t worry, kilts aren’t mandatory; though for once it may be you getting the odd looks for not wearing one. ▶▶
XXXFeast of San Gennaro New York City
XXXFrench Food Festival Larose, Louisiana
“Joie de vivre” (joy of living) helps define the Cajun paradigm, and if you visit Larose, Louisiana, during the last full weekend of October, you’ll understand why as you fill your plate with jumbalaya, shrimp po-boys, and pistolettes. The French Food Festival offers more than just food, with local music (including zydeco) and demonstrations of the unique Cajun culture, the result of French-speaking Acadian exiles settling among the melting pot that was eighteenth century Louisiana. Come hungry, and bienvenue dans le bayou.
Opening with a cannoli-eating contest and a blessing of the vendor stalls by a Catholic priest, the Feast of San Gennaro combines the down-to-earth with the reverent in a way unique to the Italian people. Originally a small act of devotion to San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, by a few immigrants, the feast has expanded to a full 11-day festival (September 12–22) replete with live performances by Italian performers, stands filled with traditional Italian food, and two processions honoring San Gennaro. The main event occurs on the nineteenth, the official Saint Day of San Gennaro, where after a Mass held in the Most Precious Blood Church, the statue of San Gennaro is carried through the streets of Little Italy. ▶▶
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