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Feb 12, 2013

A Season for the Passions

As you no doubt know, today is St. Valentines Day. Most of us in the United States are first introduced to it in kindergarten or the 1st grade where we are encouraged to give valentines to all of our classmates. Eventually we learn that Valentines Day is something of a romantic holiday, to be shared mostly in private with that “someone special,” but even at that it retains its communal quality as an occasion for the expression of the passions by virtue of being marked as a public holiday. Like most such holidays it has become grossly commercialized and it is thus easy to be cynical about it (even as I mark on my calendar the need to buy a valentine for my beloved), but what we too easily forget is that Valentines Day occurs during the mid-winter season that includes an array of holidays and festivals—Mardi Gras, carnival, the Lunar New Year, etc.—all of which feature some version of a public and communal expression and release of emotion.

Public displays of emotion are often seen as undermining collective judgment and putting democratic polity in peril, and certainly emotional reactions can get out of hand (just like obsessive and blind adherence to rationality), but at NCN we believe that public emotion is nevertheless essential to a vital and vibrant democratic public culture and thus needs to be nurtured and cultivated. And so we celebrate the mid-winter season as a time for the communal expression of affect and emotion—a season for the passions—by bringing you pictures of the season that have been featured by the mainstream media who seem implicitly to recognize its importance both at home and abroad.


Lunar New Year, Chinatown, New York City

Tet, Hanoi

Mardi Gras, St. Charles St., New Orleans

Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

Carnival, Basel, Switzerland

Congos y Diablo Carnival, Panama

653rd Anniversary of the Birth of Bawa Lal Dyal, Amristar, Pakistan

Up the Helly Aa Festival, Shetland Isles, Scotland

Valentines Day, West Bank city of Jenin

Photo Credits: Chris McGrath/Getty Images, Chitose Suzuki/AP, Ted Jackson, Times-Picayune, Daldo Galderi/AP, Andreas Frossard/AP, Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images, Arnulfo Franco/AP, Danny Lawson/AP, Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images


A Season for the Passions


6 Responses

  1. Lucaites says

    Switzerland, Sweden, what’s the big deal? They both begin with S. Seriously, “my bad” as my teenagers say. It’s what I get for trying to work too fast. Thanks for the correction!

  2. Leinwand says

    Wow, you guys seriously bring carnivale to a new level.
    In Germany (where is live) its kinda boring. Just the pictures on this site tell a really nice story.
    Thanks for posting.

  3. Bri J says

    This collection of images are quite a spectacle; striking and impressive in its visual display, if not awe-inspiring. It is almost as if they can pull you in and make you feel as if you are physically there. It really doesn’t matter how old you are, it is events like this that make you enjoy the delights of one’s culture. I would love to experience these events in real life. Never have been to any of these countries besides the US (New Orleans) but hope to visit in the future.

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