feast, commemorative banquet symbolizing communal unity. Generally associated with primitive rituals and later with religious practices, feasts may also commemorate such events as births, marriages, harvests, and deaths. The principal Christian feasts of the Western Church are Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany, and Christmas. The greater number of feasts (excluding Sunday, the weekly feast) fall on the same day of the month each year (e.g., Christmas) and constitute the temporal cycle. Some of the more important liturgical observances are movable (e.g., Easter) and are part of the sanctoral system. Among the Jews the chief feasts are Rosh ha-Shanah, the Feast of Tabernacles, Purim, Passover, Hanukkah, and Shavuot. In the Muslim world the Islamic feasts vary according to country and locale, although there are several feast days of universal importance. The most widely celebrated are the little and great feasts following the fast of Ramadan and the feast commemorating the birth of Muhammad. In Buddhist countries festive celebrations are usually associated with the birthday of Buddha, his attainment of Nirvana, or enlightenment, and his death. In India there are many national and regional Hindu feasts. One of the most important is the feast of Holi. See also vigil and fasting.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.