a day or time of religious or other celebration, marked by feasting, ceremonies, or other observances: the festival of Christmas; a Roman festival.
a periodic commemoration, anniversary, or celebration: an annual strawberry festival.
a period or program of festive activities, cultural events, or entertainment: a music festival.
gaiety; revelry; merrymaking.
festal: a festival atmosphere of unrestrained joy.

1300–50; Middle English < Medieval Latin fēstivālis (diēs) holy (day). See festive, -al1

prefestival, noun
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
festival (ˈfɛstɪvəl)
1.  a day or period set aside for celebration or feasting, esp one of religious significance
2.  any occasion for celebration, esp one which commemorates an anniversary or other significant event
3.  an organized series of special events and performances, usually in one place: a festival of drama
4.  archaic a time of revelry; merrymaking
5.  (modifier) relating to or characteristic of a festival
[C14: from Church Latin fēstivālis of a feast, from Latin festīvusfestive]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1580s (n.); it was an adj. in 14c.; from M.L. festivalis "of a church holiday" (see festivity).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


day or period of time set aside to commemorate, ritually celebrate or reenact, or anticipate events or seasons-agricultural, religious, or sociocultural-that give meaning and cohesiveness to an individual and to the religious, political, or socioeconomic community. Because such days or periods generally originated in religious celebrations or ritual commemorations that usually included sacred community meals, they are called feasts or festivals.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The celebration in question was a scientific meeting, rather than a festival.
But possibly your new colleagues will throw a festival for you upon your
Though accompanied by days of abandoned revelry, the colorful festival is
  fraught with bitter rivalries.
Filmmakers who make tiny movies now have a festival.
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