One of the great joys of the Harry Potter books, and a reason for their enduring popularity, is the way J. K. Rowling effortlessly cultivated a sense of ritual. These rituals marked the progression of each school year, the changing of seasons, and gave readers a comforting sense of stability and rhythm. In addition to the annual start-of-term feast, Hogwarts also hosted a Hallowe’en feast, a Christmas feast, and the end-of-the-year feast. Alongside these were traditions like the Headless Hunt and the quadrennial Triwizard Tournament.
The amount of festivals highlights the story’s emphasis on multiculturalism, because the world is full of festivals—many of them quite old, and many far stranger than anything found at Hogwarts. From the rivers of China to the cold streets of Scotland, people love to mark the passage of time by celebrating momentous events in the years of their lives. The following are some of the most creative ways they do this.
8. The Doll Festival (March 3; Japan)
The 1990 film Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, which consists of dreams the director had throughout his life, contains a gorgeous sequence where the young boy Kurosawa witnesses the Doll Festival, also known as Girl’s Day or Hinamatsuri. The festival is one of the five Japanese sacred festivals, each of which originated in Chinese festivals over a thousand years ago. The world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, describes how dolls would be thrown into water as a purification rite. The dolls, which were supposed to absorb evil spirits, would be sent in a boat down the river. However, because of interference from fishing boats, which would catch the dolls in their nets, the practice was discontinued. Today the dolls are sent on a boat out to sea. Once they reach the sea, they’re gathered back up by their owners.
7. The Lantern Festival (Spring; China, Korea)
The Chinese New Year concludes on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, at the full moon, with the Day of the Festival of Lanterns. This 3,000-year-old festival, still enormously popular, features fireworks, the burning of the old year in effigy, and lanterns lit and strung up in every conceivable place to welcome the coming of spring. The Lantern Festival was once known as the Children’s Festival because on this day children used to dress up and run through the streets of the cities singing and dancing. Then each child would go to school and be given a candle by his or her teacher. The teacher would place the candle inside the lantern, blessing the child’s studies over the next year. In Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, the day is still celebrated annually with the famous Dragon Dance.