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The Range – and Purposes – of Australian Public Festivals That are Functioning at Present

Author(s): John S. Ryan

Journal: Folklore (Tartu)
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 34;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: festival | Australian public festivals | theoretical perspectives of festivals

The ‘festival’, this customary and very Australian institution, hasalways embraced a multiplicity of rituals, forms and activities; for it is public in its presentation, participatory in its nature, an embodiment of the community,and also a carrier of its traditional/long accepted values and beliefs, notably those of defiance and of the scurrilous and mocking.Recent classification would seem to indicate that social and class bases enable the (larger) festivals to be put in several categories. Alex Barlow opted to categorize these festivals into eight, seemingly progressively developing, clusters: seasonal, harvest, food, sport, historical, cultural, religious, ethnic/folk. Australia today enjoys a vast variety of festive celebrations, civic, playful, religious, popular, and traditional. The catalysts/determinants to the regular performances and their attractiveness are: (present) power; (residual) class; the distinctive/seeming enclave; or the perceived/energetically claimed/promoted ‘regional’ style. The author also outlines some theoretical perspectives on the late modern/post-modern public celebration of festivals on the basis of two major scholars in the U.S. – William M. Johnston and Jack Kugelmas.The Australian/post-modern festival complex/area of associations – and one somehow close to the area of meaningful and accessible ‘heritage’ – is one evolving in its deeper significance, and acting as a bowl mirror to tell us much about the actual local/national past and its possible future. Yet it continues to defiantly celebrate life, and so it remains, as it always has been, the most important/uncertain/enigmatic presentation of a culture’s /any culture’s values, meaning, more spontaneous behaviour and place on history’s spectrum.

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