Community activities – Exploration of local traditions

Community action has a twofold meaning in this guide: on the one hand, it refers to a community activity intended to achieve a single goal using a single method. An activity is also considered an action when the impact is significantly more complex than the goal (e.g. the goal is to arrange a community exhibition; impact: increased local participation, deeper insight into the community’s identity, a new channel of communication between generations, etc.). Unlike in everyday language, an action in our definition is not a one-off, short term community event but, rather, a possibly longer-term effort devoted to the implementation of a single goal (e.g. the exploration of traditions, which may require years).

Exploration of local traditions


Knowledge, awareness, practice or a series of activities bearing a meaning, which can concern any area of life, connected to a significant day in the calendar year or to some other significant event in local history, handed down by generations until the present or in an earlier period of the history of society, still sustained by the community, or communities, of a village.

…one of the major differences between a celebration and a spectacle: we are but spectators of the latter, while active participants and recipients of the former. [1]

Purpose of the activity

To collect, genuinely explore and adapt to the present situation, with the involvement and engagement of locals, those festivity traditions that are relevant for the present-day local society, with the purpose of strengthening local identity through reviving events connected to significant dates. Further, by strengthening ties to the community, or to an ethnic group, to give a boost to the creativity of the people involved, to initiate dialogue and collaboration between different people and generations, and to provide an opportunity for the community to represent themselves.

Key terms

local traditions, festivities, significant days, festive traditions, tradition revival, quest for identity, festive symbol, self-representation of the community, community memories


Personal: community cultural developer mentor, programme manager, older locals, locals who may be engaged, young people, volunteers, a museologist preferably qualified in ethnography, and possibly a leader of an ethnographical collection

Material: written sources documenting the tradition, publications on local history, local press, private letters, diaries, films and voice recordings (as many items as possible from this list), a video camera or dictaphone to record memories and a photo camera, objects required for the revival of the tradition (e.g. clothes, vehicles, food etc.), library, archives, museum collections and documents

Financial: room rental for rehearsals (if needed), external participants’ fee (e.g. an orchestra).

Applied tools and methods

Collection of information about the community’s traditions and festivities in the past.

These may belong to the following types:

a) Traditional community activities, customs and festive rituals connected to the calendar year or ecclesiastical year (e.g. Christmas nativity plays, Anna-day balls).

b) Events connected to the longer periods of the agricultural year and natural holidays (e.g. carnival and harvest feasts, summer solstice, etc.)

c) Exploration of the traditions and festivities connected to local history (e.g. community foundation day or memorial days of other historical events), and of recent and past events.

These may be explored and studied with the help of a combination of the methods and resources below:

a) based on monographs and resources on local history already published or in manuscript, e.g. theses, local collections,

b) based on the research and publications of members of the local or county museum,

c) by obtaining information through interviews from the older, preferably the oldest, generation about traditions of the past. Selection of the interviewees and interviewers and formulation of the questions are done according to the points the community has chosen as relevant (please see the methodology of community discussion, community planning),

d) from archived documents.

e) During the interviews and discussions, we may want to ask the interviewees to try to recall their childhood and youth:

• What communities existed in the village? These may have been organized by age groups (e.g. girl or boy communities, young men’s associations), by profession (e.g. miners, fishermen) or by area of interest (philately, choir), etc.

• Did the communities have regular events and meetings? Who organized these community events? Do the descendants of these organizers have any material and/or cultural memories (e.g. scripts, librettos, family memories) connected to the festive traditions in their possession?

• How did the given community celebration or festivity change during the years and decades?

• What events did the community organize that were connected to significant dates (name days, e.g. Catherine and George) or to religious holidays (Christmas, Easter, indulgence day, Corpus Christi procession, pilgrimage, etc.)?

• Do they know any stories from the past which are considered as significant historical events, worthy of commemorating?

f) If no information may be collected about past festivities and traditions, then one may choose to organize events around general significant dates. Please refer to Jeles napok, ünnepi szokások (Significant dates, festive traditions) in the list of references. Earlier traditions of the area and the region and the characteristics of the settlement also need to be taken into consideration when establishing traditions (e.g. there is no point in organizing a harvest party if no grape is grown in the area).

Results, expected outcome

Festivities and events connected to a community’s celebrations and significant dates will strengthen the sense of belonging as well as community and local identity in the community or targeted group (e.g. young people, the religious group or the farmers, etc.).

Celebrations move us out of our everyday world; they may add colour and joy to our everyday life and offer an opportunity to relax and to obtain cultural and learning experiences.

These are socialisation exercises as well, teaching young people involved in the revival of the festivities how to celebrate, while the older generations may hand down their knowledge, making them feel useful and valuable.

Activities connected to festive rituals are projections (and not only mirror images or expressions) of social relations.
Celebrations have ethical relevances. They codify cohesion. They provide special attention to, and an unconditional acceptance of, all those involved. Invitation to a celebration is an honour, and so is its acceptance. Outsiders may not be part of a celebration: the invitation is therefore a request to join the community. Rejecting an invitation is a refusal of the community: one cannot celebrate on their own.


[1] Vanier, J.: A közösség. A megbocsátás és az ünnep helye. [The community. A place of forgiveness and celebration]. 2006. Budapest, Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta
Halász, P.: Hagyományátadás. [Transfer of traditions] Methodological aid.
Honismeret (különszám). 2010. [Homeland Studies, special issue].
Helyi emlékezet, kulturális örökség, örökségvédelem – [Local memories, cultural heritage, heritage protection] series, methodology booklets. 2010. Muharay Elemér Folk Art Association
Items in the series:
Mohay, T.: Töredékek az ünnepről. [Fragments about the holiday]. 2008. Budapest, Nap Kiadó 5-18. Available online at:
Tátrai, Zs. – Karácsony Molnár, E.: Jeles napok, ünnepi szokások. [Significant dates, holiday traditions]. 1997. Budapest, Planétás Kiadó