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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 #60 on: April 29, 2009, 03:24:39 pm »

GEORGIRITT (Saint George's Parade), in Traunstein, Upper Bavaria April 23

    Saint George, the great soldier saint of the Middle Ages who reputedly was martyred on April 23 about the year 300, is honored annually at Traunstein and some other Bavarian villages by the Georgiritt, or Saint George's Parade. For George, who represented the flower of knighthood, became protector of horses and their riders. On his day the parish priest blesses both beasts and men and sprinkles them with holy water.

    According to Jacobus de Voragine, thirteenth-century author of The Golden Legend, Saint George arrived at Lybia's pagan city of Sylene just as a dragon which demanded human tribute was terrifying the entire countryside. Saint George, finding Sylene's citizens in deepest mourning, soon discovered that it was the turn of the King's daughter to be sacrificed to the demon's appetite. Dressed in wedding garments of purest white, the young girl calmly sat down by a stagnant pool outside the city. Fortunately the story had a happy ending. Saint George came upon the Princess and awaited the monster's arrival at her side. At last the charging dragon appeared. Saint George stuck his sword down the fiery throat. The Princess then tethered the beast to her girdle and triumphantly led him into Sylene. There the saint promptly slew the dragon--once Sylene's fifteen thousand citizens had agreed to be baptized into the Christian faith.

    Throughout the centuries the story of Saint George has symbolized the victory of good over evil. Many claim that the legend, which finds its counterpart in the Siegfried cycle and other mythological stories, represents renewal of life in early spring and the conquest of Summer over Winter.

    Today the ancient victory of the saint on horseback is commemorated when Traunstein farmers mount their gaily garlanded horses and ride them across the fields and three times around the parish church. After receiving the priest's blessing on the horses, as well as other farm animals, and on crops and gardens, the procession, accompanied by drums and trumpets, turns toward the village. The festival finally ends with ritualistic sword dances which, like the Saint George legend, have come down from medieval to modern times.

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