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A Report by Andrew Collins
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Festivals of Western Europe

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Author Topic: Festivals of Western Europe  (Read 3227 times)
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2009, 01:28:22 pm »

Forty or more of the groups are introduced by angels or other characters who recite explanatory verses concerning scenes that are to follow.

    Horse-drawn floats, decorated cars and the colorful banners and standards of the organizing committee all form a part of the impressive procession. But the most moving figures of the spectacle are the black-hooded penitents, many of them barefoot, who bend and stagger under the heavy burden of full-sized wooden crosses. Both men and women are among the penitents. All wear coarse woolen robes and hoods having only slits for eyes. These people are not actors. They are seeking expiation from sin through bearing their crosses, even as Jesus bore his to Calvary.

    Last of all the Sacred Host appears, carried by several bishops. As the Sacrament passes, spectators kneel in adoration. A hush falls over the great crowd. Once the procession has returned to the Church of Saint Walburga from which it issued, however, all Furnes gives itself to the joy of a kermess (fair) in the market place.

MARIA-HEMELVAART DAG (Assumption of the Virgin Mary), in Hasselt, province of Limburg Third and fourth Sundays in August

    In Hasselt, capital of Limburg, the festival of Virga Jesse, Virgin of the Line of Jesse, is celebrated every seven years on the third and fourth Sundays in August. According to tradition, the image of the Virgin once stood in a forest tree, at the crossroads which mark the present site of Hasselt. Travelers left offerings at this shrine and prayed for a safe journey. Gradually reports of the image's miraculous powers spread until, by the fourteenth century, pilgrims from far and wide came to worship at the tree.

    Today the people of Hasselt in solemn procession carry through the town an ancient, blackened image of the Virgin, which they claim once stood in the crossroads tree. The procession proceeds under a series of arches, commemorating various dramatic episodes in the town's history.

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