Rituals of Laughter

Rituals of laughter are traditional rites in which laughter is deliberately performed for religious purposes. They are often connected to folk festivals, as in Japan, which has seven major traditional festivals that feature formal, ritual performances of laughter. This entry explains the religious significance of these rituals, describes two examples, and compares them with other annual calendar traditions around the world also closely associated with laughter.

Japanese laughter rituals are embedded in the Shinto myths of Japanese folk religion and in the social organization of the community where each festival takes place. Japanese people traditionally believed in two kinds of gods: those bringing happiness and those bringing misfortune and disaster. Ritual performances of laughter (warai) are dedicated to pleasing and entertaining the gods so that they ...

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