Feasts and Festivals

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee Question/Answer on cataloging issues – January 2011
What kinds of subject headings are applied to works on feasts and festivals?


The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) thesaurus has a number of different terms that are used for secular festivals as well as religious ones. LCSH makes a distinction between religious and secular celebrations both in the use of subject headings and subject subdivisions.
The most comprehensive terms used for religious festivals is Fasts and feasts. LCSH uses this for works on religious fasts and feasts in general and on Christian fasts and feasts. The heading may also be divided by religious body or non-Christian religion, e.g. Fasts and feasts–Catholic Church, Fasts and feasts–Judaism, etc. This heading can be subdivided by place. For example: Fasts and feasts–Cuba, Fasts and feasts–Indonesia, etc. Furthermore, if the work is on the festivals of a religious body occurring in a particular place, two subject headings are used: one for the location and another for the religious body. For example:

A work on Catholic festivals in Ecuador:

  • Fasts and feasts—Ecuador.
  • Fasts and feasts—Catholic Church.

There are also a great number of narrower terms for individual religious celebrations. Here are some of these: Advent ; All Saints’ Day ; All Souls’ Day; Ascension Day; Beltane; Christmas; Church year ; Corpus Christi Festival; Easter ; Elijah the Prophet’s Day; Ember days; Epiphany; Erntedankfest; Feast of Jesus Christ the King; Feast of the Cross; Feast of the Holy Innocents; Feast of the Holy Name; Feast of the Sacred Heart; Feast of the Three Hierarchs; Feast of the Transfiguration; Good Friday; Holy Saturday; Lammas; Lent; Maundy Thursday; Michaelmas; Palm Sunday; Pentecost Festival; Quinquagesima Sunday; Rogation days; Samhain; Sunday; Thanksgiving Day. Additional religious days can be established as materials on them are published.
Some religious figures also have “feasts” established as a subdivision under their names. For example: Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint–Feasts. There are also subject headings for individual feasts devoted to Mary. For example: Candlemas; Círio de Nazaré Festival; Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Feast of the Immaculate Conception; Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Visitation Festival.
The secular equivalent of “Fasts and feasts” is Festivals. This term can also be subdivided geographically. Therefore a work entitled “Celebrations in Cali” would get the subject heading “Festivals—Colombia—Cali.”
There are a number of narrower terms established for both individual secular celebrations, as well as types of festivals. Some examples are: Adloyada (Festival); Art festivals; Autumn festivals; Carnival; Children’s festivals; Comedy festivals; Craft festivals; Durbars; Ethnic festivals; Family festivals; Flower festivals; Folk festivals; Food festivals; Gay pride celebrations; Harvest festivals; Jonkonnu (Festival); Palio festivals; Parades; Pase del Niño festival; Rice planting rites; Sports festivals; Spring festivals; Summer festivals; Wine festivals; Winter festivals.
Under each of these subject headings that describes a “type of festival” (i.e. Winter festivals, etc.) there are also narrower headings available for specific rites of that season, type of activity, etc. For example: under “Winter festivals” there is Sadah (Festival), for a Zoroastrian festival held in mid-winter; while, under “Spring festivals” there is May celebrations.
The two main subject headings therefore are “Fasts and feasts” for religious celebrations and “festivals” for secular celebrations. There are also a few subdivisions that are commonly used on works of this nature. The most common subdivisions under places are –Social life and customs for secular activities and –Religious life and customs for religious activities. For example:

Holy celebrations in Lima

  • Fasts and feasts—Peru—Lima
  • Lima (Peru)—Religious life and customs

Seasonal celebrations in Wiltshire

  • Festivals—England—Wiltshire
  • Wiltshire (England)—Social life and customs.

There are also two subdivisions used under ethnic groups. They are –Social life and customs for secular celebrations and –Rites and ceremonies for religious ones. For example:

Rituals of the Kekchi

  • Kekchi Indians—Rites and ceremonies
  • Fasts and feasts—Guatemala
  • Guatemala—Religious life and customs

Maori celebrations

  • Maori (New Zealand people)—Social life and customs
  • Festivals—New Zealand
  • New Zealand—Social life and customs

As a final note, it should be stated that, although LCSH makes a clear distinction between secular and religious manners and customs, their placement of some terms in their hierarchy can seem arbitrary. For example: “Carnival” is listed under “Festivals” as a secular festival, although the scope note for this subject heading says that “here are entered works on festivals, merrymaking, and revelry before Lent.” “Thanksgiving Day” is under “Fasts and feasts” as a religious celebration. Christmas is also listed under “Fasts and feasts,” and one could argue for that holiday being in either list. Therefore it is important to look under both broad terms for a complete list of individual celebrations.

2 Responses to Feasts and Festivals

  1. morgan says:

    What are the different types of festivals (religious and secular)

  2. morgan says:

    1) Why do festivals take place?
    2) Who celebrates festivals?
    3) What are the different types of festivals (religious and secular)?
    4) What festivals do you know about?
    5) Why might a festival have a theme?
    6) Why would light be used?
    7) Do you celebrate any festivals?
    8) Why do you celebrate them and how
    do you feel when you do?

    anyone help me

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