The Yuletide season is upon us. If certain prophesies are true, this should be a Yule for the ages, the last grand Circle before the lights go out for good. Yes, here comes Armageddon. However, should we all awaken on the morning of the 22nd, and find that the world hasn't been “Arma-got-done”, festivities will resume as planned.
I thought it would be nice, over the next few weeks, to talk about some of the traditions associated with the celebrations and trappings of this “most wonderful time of the year”. Let's start with the date of Xmas itself: December 25th.
Those of a Pagan persuasion know that the Winter Solstice (around Dec 21st) or Yule marks the shortest day of the year. This is a time when darkness seems to be conquering the light. Magic was done and rites performed to assure that the sun would rise in the morning – a sign that the light had been re-born. (All the more reason, this year, to burn those premium peppermint striped candles you've been saving for a “special” Yule!)
Christmas is celebrated only a few days later. Most folks do realize that no shepherds were watching any flocks on the hillsides in December. The most likely time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is March or April. What we did have on December 25th was the birth of a god named Mithra. Roman soldiers brought the belief in Mirtha back to their homeland from their billets in Eastern lands. Mirtha appealed to soldiers because he was a warrior himself, come to earth to establish his kingdom. In the case of Mithra, this was conceived of as an actual kingdom, not the spiritual “kingdom of God” professed by Jesus.
The belief flourished, and almost eclipsed the new Christian faith, except for one incredible event – the fall of Rome. With the disintegration of the Empire went the power of the Roman Legion. However, there are always elements of the Pagan which can not be eradicated from the Christian. Obviously the date of the birth of Christ is one of them.
We should not forget that the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia takes place during this period (usually December 17th to the 23rd). During this time, the statue of Saturn was filled with olive oil (he was a god of vegetation) and his feet – usually bound with wood – were freed. There was a public sacrifice at the temple, the giving of gifts (even gag gifts!) and decorating with wreaths and garlands. The Lord of Misrule was in evidence (and survives as an English Christmas custom. This is a person selected to preside over the feasting).
|Now THAT'S an office party!|
Taking December 25th and making it Christian, and absorbing many other Pagan traditions along the way, makes the Church's observance of Xmas suspect. To misquote Dickens, there is more of gravy than Holy Ghost about it.
Next time: Mushrooms and Xmas trees.
As for me, I'm just happy to be home and able to celebrate with my family. It was December 18th last year when I ended up in hospital, struggling to survive sepsis and facing multiple surgeries. I am starting to walk with a shoe and brace, but I'm taking it slow until after the holidays. If the ankle is going to break down (which means amputation) I'm making sure it is after the holidays. I just want to have a happy memory. I will be seeing my surgeon on Dec 10th, so hopefully the news is good and I can relax a bit.
Rufus is getting accustomed to being home again. I think I've convinced him to stop marking and use his papers. (Today was a good day.) We even had our Holiday picture taken. Claude was the photographer.
My article “The Tie That Binds” was published last week as a special on-line article for Sage Woman subscribers. My blog activity really picked up after that. Welcome, new readers! Feel free to comment.
Finally, for the Sherlock Fans, filming of Season 3 has been pushed back until March. Benedict and Martin are so busy these days that other commitments have caused the delay. Good for them, crappy for us. So, for the time being, Sherlock is still “dead”. But remember what happened last time. You just can't kill Sherlock Holmes.
One final thing: My dear friend, Goldie, was kind enough to read my Sherlock manuscript. In my story, both he and his sister play the Moonlight Sonata on the violin. Goldie pointed out that it was usually done as a piano piece. I advised her to try and hear strings playing it. Well, this isn't the best example but, below, is a string quartet doing the Sonata. Enjoy!