Festivals to digest

23rd January 1998 at 00:00

CARNIVAL. By Catherine Chambers

DIVALI. By Dilip Kadodwala

EASTER. By Catherine Chambers

HANUKKAH. By Anne Clark, David and Gill Rose

THANKSGIVING. By Marilyn Miller

Evans #163;8.99 each

Ideal exhibits for any library display, these books, with their large, bold and colourful photographs, are wonderfully attractive. Yet when it comes to their value as practical sources of information, they are of rather more variable worth.

No problems with Divali and Hanukkah. Each contains a remarkable number of facts, presented in a digestible manner. The Hindu volume isn't afraid to tackle difficult questions such as "One God or many?" as it leads us enthusiastically through the various days of the festival. Photographs of the different customs and the examples of Indian art are sumptuously reproduced.

Similarly, Hanukkah doesn't funk demanding issues. It cele-brates the Jewish sense of nationhood and has an effective double-page spread on Hanukkah during the Holocaust.

It is with the books on carnival and Thanksgiving that we realise the series is as concerned with the secular as the religious. Ash Wednesday and Lent may be given a place in the first of this pair, but the emphasis is very much on the exotic. Thanksgiving is almost exclusively North American. Apart from one picture of a gloomy British harvest festival, the icons here are yellow cabs, giant inflatable Bart Simpsons and cranberries.

The real disappointment is Easter. The first half of the book is concerned with the earlier Holy Week events rather than the festival itself and the one spread on Easter Day says nothing about resurrection morning nor about the appearances of Christ. As if embarrassed by such matters, the author quickly turns to springtime festivals and the theme of new life, which (as we are reminded without irony) we celebrate by eating baby chocolate bunnies.


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