24 years ago tonight I went on my first date with the wonderful Tara (@wdr_wman). We went to the World Famous Milestone Club. We have been with each other ever since through triumph & tumult. My love for her grows every day.
Loose translation from Latin: Peace of Saturn
Despite what some may say, the mythological story of Christ is not “the reason for the season.” Europeans have had celebrations around the time of the Winter Solstice (20th or 21st December; this year 21st) since before recorded history. It is the time of the longest nights, when people cling together. It is also the time when food—recently harvested—needs to be eaten, stored, or thrown out. It is a natural time for a festival of caring and feasting in advance of the approaching winter.
My favorite such observances of the winter solstice is the Roman Saturnalia. It starts today (17th December) and lasts for the next seven days. In ancient times it was celebrated with public banquets, gift-giving, parties and carnivals all over the empire. Around 50 BC, the poet Catullus called it “the best of days”, which Andy Williams would echo almost exactly 2000 years later, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
My favorite part is how the holiday overturned Roman social norms where masters provided table service for their slaves. It was a time of great joy and frivolity. Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth. This renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun”, on 23rd December.
The holiday remained popularity into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, many of its customs were recast into or at least influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.
So this year, I wish you a bright and cheerful winter solstice and hope for a better 2018.