Kermesse (festival)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Kermesse or kermis, is a Dutch language term derived from 'kerk' (church) and 'mis' (mass) that became borrowed in English and French, originally denoting the mass said on the anniversary of the foundation of a church (or the parish) and in honour of the patron. Such celebrations were regularly held in the Low Countries and also in northern France, and were accompanied by feasting, dancing and sports of all kinds.

Arguably the first kermesse was an annual parade to celebrate the events of 1370 (some sources say 1369) in Brussels, when all the Jews of the city were burnt alive for having profaned a basket of communion hosts, which bled when stabbed.

These festivities still survive in the form of funfairs, while the old allegorical representations are now uncommon. Whereas nearly every village has a kermis once or twice a year, the large Zuidfoor aka Foire du Midi (South Fair) of Brussels and Sinksenfoor (Whitsun Fair) of Antwerp attract many visitors during several weeks. The funfair on the Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent coincides with the 10-day long Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festivities) which are held across the entire inner city around the 21st of July (Belgian national holiday).

The standard Dutch language expression Vlaamse kermis (Flemish kermesse) once referred to the local village kermesse (as pronounced in the former County of Flanders) though its modern usage is mainly limited to privately organized fairs open to the public, often for fund-raising, such as by Catholic schools or youth organisations in the Flemish Region.

Impact on other languages and cultures

The word Kermesse (generally in the form Kirmess) is applied in the United States to any entertainment, especially one organized in the interest of charity. The Dutch-American Village of Little Chute, Wisconsin has celebrated Kermis annually since 1981. The Wallonian settlements in Door County, Wisconsin also celebrate a "Kermis" with traditional Belgian dishes and events, but the event has been officially renamed "Belgian Days" so as to avoid confusion with the Little Chute celebration. Another American polity that celebrates this holiday is La Kermesse of Biddeford, Maine. The International School of Indiana, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, holds an annual Kermesse celebration with refreshments, carnival games and face painting to celebrate the ending of the school year for their pre-elementary and elementary students. In the City of Halifax (Canada), a city with a limited Dutch heritage, kermesses have been held since 1907 [1] as fund raisers for the local children's hospital.

The term has also had an influence on Latin American culture. Specifically in Mexico, Peru and Chile, "Kermeses" are held by churches and schools to raise funds. Many activities take place including "tombolas" where people buy tickets for drawings that always have awards from very minor items to bigger awards. In Brazil "Quermesses" are usually held by churches during the early weeks of Winter and in celebration of the widely popular Festa Junina festivities.

The word also entered the Belarusian language as "кiрмаш" (kirmash) in the meaning of "fair".

In the Turkish language "kermes" is a sale of ladies' handiwork for charity.

In Lithuanian language "kermošius" (kermoshius) means a fair after the mass in the church.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kermesse (festival)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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