Tag Archives: traditions

Finland – Lapps

The oldest known inhabitants of Finland are the Lapps, who were already settled there when the Finns arrived in the southern part of the country about 2,000 years ago. The Lapps were distantly related to the Finns, and both spoke a non-Indo- European language belonging to the Finno-Ugric family of languages. Once present throughout the country, the Lapps gradually moved northward under the pressure of the advancing Finns. As they were a nomadic people in a sparsely settled land, the Lapps were always able to find new and open territory in which to follow their traditional activities of hunting, fishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture. By the sixteenth century, most Lapps lived in the northern half of the country, and it was during this period that they converted to Christianity. By the nineteenth century, most of them lived in the parts of Lapland that were still their home in the 1980s. The last major shift in Lapp settlement was the migration westward of 600 Skolt Lapps from the Petsamo region after it was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1944. A reminder of their eastern origin was their Orthodox faith; the remaining 85 percent of Finland’s Lapps were Lutheran.

About 90 percent of Finland’s 4,400 Lapps lived in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari, and Utsjoki, and in the reindeer herding-area of Sodankyla. According to Finnish regulations, anyone who spoke the Lapp language, Sami, or who had a relative who was a Lapp, was registered as a Lapp in census records. Finnish Lapps spoke three Sami dialects, but by the late 1980s perhaps only a minority actually had Sami as their first language. Lapp children had the right to instruction in Sami, but there were few qualified instructors or textbooks available. One reason for the scarcity of written material in Sami is that the three dialects spoken in Finland made agreement about a common orthography difficult. Perhaps these shortcomings explained why a 1979 study found the educational level of Lapps to be considerably lower than that of other Finns.

Few Finnish Lapps actually led the traditional nomadic life pictured in school geography texts and in travel brochures. Although many Lapps living in rural regions of Lapland earned some of their livelihood from reindeer herding, it was estimated that Lapps owned no more than one-third of Finland’s 200,000 reindeer. Only 5 percent of Finnish Lapps had the herds of 250 to 300 reindeer needed to live entirely from this kind of work. Most Lapps worked at more routine activities, including farming, construction, and service industries such as tourism. Often a variety of jobs and sources of income supported Lapp families, which were, on the average, twice the size of a typical Finnish family. Lapps also were aided by old-age pensions and by government welfare, which provided a greater share of their income than it did for Finns as a whole.

There have been many efforts over the years by Finnish authorities to safeguard the Lapps’ culture and way of life and to ease their entry into modern society. Officials created bodies that dealt with the Lapp minority, or formed committees that studied their situation. An early body was the Society for the Promotion of Lapp Culture, formed in 1932. In 1960 the government created the Advisory Commission on Lapp Affairs. The Lapps themselves formed the Samii Litto in 1945 and the Johti Sabmelazzat, a more aggressive organization, in 1968. In 1973 the government arranged for elections every four years to a twentymember Sami Parlamenta that was to advise authorities. On the international level, there was the Nordic Sami Council of 1956, and there has been a regularly occurring regional conference since then that represented–in addition to Finland’s Lapps– Norway’s 20,000 Lapps, Sweden’s 10,000 Lapps, and the 1,000 to 2,000 Lapps who remained in the Kola Peninsula in the Soviet Union.


China – Miao Festival

The Miao Lusheng Festival is the most ceremonious traditional festival celebrated on the grandest scale at Zhouxi, Kaili City, and the Gulong Village in Huangping county.

Zhouxi Lusheng Festival is held from the 16th day to the 20th day of the first lunar month, attracting over 40,000 people of different nationalities from Kaili City, Danzhai County, Majiang County and Leishan County. Gulong Lusheng Festival is held from the 27th day to the 29th day of the ninth lunar month, attracting 30,000 to 40,000 people.

At the lusheng Festival, hundreds of the lusheng (bamboo-pipe instruments) in dozens of groups are simultaneously played and the music is reverberating far and wide. Hundreds and thousands of the Miao girls wearing silver-decorated clothes and head ornaments are dancing together to the rhythms, forming one circle after another together on the lusheng playing ground, and appearing a silver swirling sea.

The Festival is both an exhibition of prosperity and a competition of skill and wisdom. Those noble and dignified, well-behaved youngsters are praised and those clever and deft, beautifully-decorated girls are admired. Therefore, playing the Lusheng music and performing the Lusheng dance are an important part of many Miao festivals. During the Lusheng Festival, people can enjoy other activities, such as bullfight, basketball match, tug of war, mountain-climbing, race, chess-playing, etc.


China – Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui

The two traditional villages of Xidi and Hongcun preserve to a remarkable extent the appearance of non-urban settlements of a type that largely disappeared or was transformed during the last century. Their street plan, their architecture and decoration, and the integration of houses with comprehensive water systems are unique surviving examples.

– Xidi

Xidi was originally called Xichuan (West River), because of the streams that pass through it, but its present name, which means “West Post,” comes from the ancient caravan posting station some 1.5km to the west of the village.

It owes its growth to the Hu family from Wuyuan (Xinan), who adopted a son of the Tang Emperor Zhaozong (888- 904) after the Emperor was forced from his throne in 904, naming him Hu Changyi. One of his descendants, Hu Shiliang, moved his family from Wuyuan to Xidi in 1047. From that time onwards the family lived and prospered at Xidi.

The population began to rise sharply from 1465, when the Hu family began to act as merchants. The construction of a number of important private and public buildings, and in particular the Huiyuan and Gulai bridges, began at around that time. From the mid 17th century until around 1850 the Hu family was influential in both commerce and politics. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties members of the family became Imperial officials, whilst many also became graduates of the Imperial College. At its peak in the 18th and 19th centuries the village had more than six hundred residences. However, with the decline of the Anhui merchant community and the disintegration of the feudal clan system during the later Qing Dynasty and the Republic, Xidi ceased to expand.

– Hongcun

Hongcun was founded in 1131 by Wang Wen, a Han Dynasty General, and his kinsman Wang Yanji, who brought their families from Qisu village to the upper part of the stream near Leigang mountain and built 13 houses there. The village knew two periods of great prosperity, 1401- 1620 and 1796-1908. Like the Hu family in Xidi, the Wang family became officials and merchants and accumulated enormous wealth, which they used to endow their home village with many fine buildings. Around 1405, on the advice of geomancers, a channel was dug to bring fresh water to the village from the West Stream. Two hundred years later the water supply system of the village was completed with the creation of the South Lake. The 19th and early 20th centuries saw the construction of a number of imposing public buildings, such as the South Lake Academy (1814), the Hall of Meritorious Deeds (1888), the Hall of Virtuousness (1890), and the Hall of Aspiration (1855, rebuilt 1911).

Somewhat later than Xidi, Hongcun fell into a decline with the birth of the Republic, but it still retains many of its fine buildings and its exceptional water system.


Canada – Alberta Cree Indian

The Cree are the largest group of First Nations in Canada, with over 200,000 members and 135 registered bands. This large population may be a result of the Crees’ traditional openness to inter-tribal marriage. Together, their reserve lands are the largest of any First Nations group in the country. The largest Cree band and the second largest First Nations Band in Canada after the Six Nations Iroquois is the Lac La Ronge Band in northern Saskatchewan.

Chile – country women with child

The Pincoya


One of the most popular myths among the fishermen of Chiloé Island is the one about a mermaid named “La Pincoya.” Sometimes, they say, she is accompanied by her husband, “Pincoy.” She rarely leaves the sea for the rivers and lakes. This sea nymph fertilizes the fish and shellfish beneath the water, and therefore the fishermen’s abundance or lack of food depend on her. When Pincoya appears, dancing on the beach, her arms open and looking towards the sea, it is good news for the fishermen because her dance announces that there will be abundant fishing. If she dances looking towards the coast, it is a bad omen because her dance will make the fish go away. However, the bad omen may be good for others, because Pincoya leads the abundance to those in need.

Joy, even if it comes from poverty, attracts Pincoya, and this is why chilotes, or the inhabitants of Chiloé, sing, dance and prepare curantos – their traditional way of cooking seafood in a hole in the ground, over stones and live coals covered with leaves, branches and earth – so that she will see their cheer and favor them. Part of the myth tells that Pincoya was born in beautiful Lake Huelde, near Cucao; that she is a gorgeous woman with fair, lightly-tanned skin, golden hair, and that from the waist down she has the tail of a fish. On certain nights she whistles or sings irresistibly haunting love songs.