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Middle English processioun, from Anglo-French processiun, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin procession-, processio religious procession, from Latin, act of proceeding, from procedere


  • 1 a : a group of individuals moving along in an orderly often ceremonial way
b : succession, sequence
  • 2 a : continuous forward movement : progression
b : emanation <the Holy Spirit's procession from the Father>


Many elements may be used to make a procession more significant than just "people walking in the same direction":

  • A special mode of transport, such as a ceremonial barge, elephant howdah, horse drawn carriage, or a palanquin carried on the shoulders of others. Cleopatra's arrival to seduce Mark Antony on a perfumed barge has taken on legendary proportion. African kings sometimes ride in palanquins carved to look like luxury cars or other status symbols, while Muslim brides travel in camel howdahs as shown in Bride Arriving in a Village, Biskra, Algeria by Philippe Pavy. The Pope has traditionally been carried in a special sedan chair known as the sedia gestatoria. In humbler terms, a mayor, grand marshal, or fair "queen" of a local parade will often ride in the town's fanciest automobile.
  • Music, including everything from the choir of a church procession to the marching band of a military procession. Criers may march before the procession, yelling to clear the way for it. Some high school homecoming parades include trucks filled with people who do nothing but make as much noise as possible.
  • Order of precedence- even without showy display, a group of people walking forward may be said to form a procession if their order and placement clearly visualize a hierarchy or symbiotic relationship. For instance, one's nearness to the king or others of high rank had important political connotations when the royal family walked to or from chapel services at the palace of Versailles. Similarly, precedence came into play when the grandest Edwardian parties progressed from the sitting room to the dining room, and the stylized movement and hierarchy of marching military units clearly sets up a formal procession.
  • Bearers of banners, fans, icons, treasure, or other eye-catching items, or leading exotic animals. This was a very important part of Roman triumphs, as booty gave the Roman populace visual proof of the warrior's success. The most elaborate evolution of this is the spectacular floats of Carnival parades. A simpler example is the ring bearer at a wedding.
  • Scent, provided by flower bearers or censers of incense.
  • Special costume. Traditionally, the costumes of acolytes, footmen, ceremonial guards, or slaves help show off the wealth of the person staging a procession. An ornate example was the embroidered train of George IV of the United Kingdom, carried at his coronation by nine lords in waiting with their own matching silken clothes, capes, ruffs, and plumed hats. Other examples include the Swiss Guard and high vestments of the Pope. The formal, matching clothes of bridesmaids and groomsmen are in the same tradition, although sometimes purchased at the attendant's expense rather than by the people honored in the ceremony. In egalitarian times and places, whoever has taken the time and money to put together something impressive may appear in a parade; such costumes are of course the focal point of Halloween parades such as that staged in Greenwich Village, New York. Finally, processions may be staged simply to show off the costumes as one part of a larger event, such as at fashion pageants, military reenactments, pop concerts, or Renaissance Festivals.
  • Special lighting. Candlelight vigils for the deceased or to show political solidarity often include a candlelit procession. Fireworks illuminate such diverse events as coronations, parades, and Thai royal barge processions.
  • The dispensing of gifts, at one time often food or money. Today, most people are familiar with the dispensing of beads at Mardi Gras and the throwing of candy at local fair parades.

See also