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Posts tagged ‘religion’

Including Local Celebrations in Your Travels

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Festivals!  Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.

Hungarian Day decorations by children

Hand-made items by children decorate the 1849 Hungarian Army memorial.  The soldiers honored with this monument died during the 1849 Revolution which is celebrated on Hungarian National Day on March 15.

I’ve seen some amazing places in my travels and have always had excellent timing.  I’ve met the right person and ended up getting a private castle tour or been in the right place and got swept up in religious procession.  Somehow recently I just happened to be in town during a national holiday or religious celebration.  But unlike Carnival in Rio, Venice or New Orleans which are internationally know parties, the festivals I found were mainly for the locals.  Seeing how a community celebrates with their own customs, foods, and crafts makes for an incredible cultural experience.  It has convinced me that if you really want genuine travel, then you have to include local celebrations in your travel plans.

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A Song to the Shepherds in Bethlehem

Not all the churches in the Holy Lands are old.  The Church of the Shepherds’ Fields in Bethlehem was  constructed in 1954 over some small caves on the outskirts of the city.  Traditional holds that these caves were used by Shepherds even in ancient times hence the connection of this site to the Nativity story.  The Church has a simple, contemporary ascetic, but by far has the best impromptu choir I’ve ever heard.

Exterior angel from the Church of the Shepherds' Fields

Exterior angel from the Church of the Shepherds’ Fields

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Visiting Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity

As I listened to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the radio yesterday, for the first time in my life I didn’t picture huts and palm trees like some cartoon Christmas TV special.  I thought back to the actual Bethlehem in the West Bank which I visited in the Spring.  The old stable of my imagination has been replaced by a drafty Byzantine basilica and the straw by Orthodox icons and lamps.  The shepherds and wise men in the Bible story are now an equality diverse group of international visitors.  But with all that, the Church of the Nativity still maintains some of the midnight atmosphere and anxious stillness of the first Christmas which is remembered here.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Interior of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, before restoration began. (Photo: Nick Thompson, flickr)

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Holy Souvenirs from the Holy Sepulchre

Besides seeing the amazing architecture and artistic decorations of the church itself, visiting religious sites always gives me the opportunity to learn about cultural practices.  Major destination churches teach me what it means to be a pilgrim by watching how people interact with the place.  Maybe more so than regular tourists or travelers, pilgrims understand the personally transformative aspect of their trip and want share it with others after they have returned home.

Candle holder just after Golgotha in the Holy Sepulchre

Candle holder just after the Chapel of Golgotha within the Holy Sepulchre.  These thin beeswax candles are an important part of Orthodox worship.

The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a holy place for all Christians and as a result, you have a lot of unique worship practices and customs coming together there.  Still, everything is rooted in a deep faith and desire for connection to the divine in the church, no matter what language was spoken.  Whether through prayers or “making” souvenirs, I also saw a deep commitment from all pilgrims to bring the holy experience back home with them. 

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The Art of a Confucian Temple

Several religious practices are popular in Taiwan, although the line between them is often blurred.  Buddha can be found in Taoist temples and living by Confucian ideals is compatible with any faith tradition.  Reliably it is actually the art and architecture of a temple that can be used to determine the beliefs of its worshipers.  One excellent contrast between temple design can be found in north Taipei where literally across the street from the Taoism Baoan Temple is the Taipei Confucius Temple.  Let walk through this elegant temple to understand what is unique about its decorations and why the temple is decorated this way.

Roof of the Lingxing Gate Taipei Confucius Temple complex

Moss and ferns cling to the roof of the Lingxing Gate which leads to the Taipei Confucius Temple sanctuary.

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