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Posts tagged ‘traditions’

Peter the Great Trendsetter: National Change through Fashion

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 Fashion!  Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.

Peter the Great statue

A Monument to Peter the Great in Taganrog, Russia (Photo)

Peter the Great (1672 – 1725) is a legitimate candidate for the the Most Interesting Man in the World.  Physically impressive at 6 foot 8 inches tall, he disregarded his royal status and sought out hands-on experience with the military, international trade, and sailing technology.  Realizing this country needed an Atlantic shipping port, he planned and constructed St. Petersburg from absolutely nothing.  Peter I’s reign was a revolutionary time for Russia; he brought the nation from medieval neglect to the Age of Enlightenment.  Emblematic of the massive political and technological changes he made, Peter’s reforms included forcing Russians to completely update their wardrobe – which was not nearly as easy as it sounds.

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Celebrating Peru at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

I’ve had such a busy summer that I totally forgot to tell you about my “visit” to Peru.  Instead of flying to South America, the art, music, and culture of Peru came to me as part of the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife festival on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Back-strap loom, Peru

Beautiful textile in progress on this back-strap loom.

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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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St. Anthony’s Festival in Boston’s North End

St. Anthony Festival, North End Boston

St. Anthony processing through the decorated festival streets of the North End, Boston.

The funny thing about traditions is that sometimes a community starts their own.  One of the things I miss about Boston in the late summer are the neighborhood street festivals including the Portuguese and Italian celebrations in Cambridge and Boston.  While these events have the flavor of old Europe,  they are decidedly American celebrations.  The biggest of all of these, the St. Anthony’s Fest in the North End, is coming up (Aug 23-25, 2013) and a fun chance to celebrate Italian-American culture.  (My photos below are from last year.)

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Seriously Warding off the Evil Eye

evil eye and tourists

So are the blue glass evil eyes just tourist kitsch?

You’re probably seen this symbol before: the light blue and white circles set in a dark blue glass base.  This stylized eye is meant to ward off the “evil eye”.  Transcending culture and religion, there is a belief throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East that because of jealousy someone could wish bad luck on a person.  This ill-will is passed through a focused glance or “evil eye” hence the need for charms to ward off the bad will.

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