|Saturnalia by Ernesto Biondi, 1909.|
Winter Solstice 2013
This seasonal celebration takes from many traditions, including the Roman Saturnalia, Druid customs, the German ‘Yule,’ and the birth of Jesus; and Queen Victoria popularized the lighted Christmas tree.
Saturday, December 21, 2013, marks Yule, the Winter Solstice, also the date observed as Saturnalia by the ancient Romans. Fittingly, this year’s Yule falls on a Saturday, Saturn’s Day.
For the Romans, Saturnalia was a time to remember and celebrate Rome’s “Golden Age,” when Saturn ruled and life was perfect: the earth had no winter, food was abundant, there was no war, all living things on the planet coexisted peacefully.
In remembrance of this time, Romans gave each other gifts, opened their doors and shared hospitality, and partied like there would be no tomorrow! Many of the elements of Saturnalia have been absorbed into our Yule celebrations. Giving gifts and hosting parties are the most obvious ones.
There were other Sun-Gods in the Long Ago, most notably Mithras. His birth was celebrated on December 25 and involved much feasting and partying. In the 5th century, Church leaders moved the date of Jesus’ birth to December 25 in order to take advantage of the already existing celebrating and to shift the focus away from what they considered paganism.
Druid customs bring us the hanging of mistletoe over doorways. Give a kiss of peace on entering a home and it conveys the promise to not perpetrate mayhem or other negative mischief while inside.
Germanic influence brings us the Yule log and the decorating of trees. We can thank Queen Victoria for making a lighted Christmas tree popular; it was a custom introduced into England by Prince Albert. Queen Victoria found the custom delightful, and if it was good enough for the queen it was good enough for all her subjects!
The word “Yule” comes from a Germanic word meaning “wheel” and signifies the shifting of Planet Earth from the dark time to the lighter time when Lord Sun once again begins his ascendency. It is interesting to note that this year Lady Moon is in Leo, a Fire sign, on the day that marks the beginning of Lord Sun’s new life.
Use the colors red (for fire and Lord Sun’s new energy), green (for the new life soon to be seen in the emerging green shoots of plants), and white (for the snow that will melt away) in your decorating. Use evergreen boughs to symbolize the rebirth of life.
Serve your guests roast meat (it need not be a whole boar’s head), nuts, spiced cakes, and sweets as well as wassail (egg nog may easily replace a steaming wassail bowl) or other celebratory libations.
Sing carols to welcome the new life of Lord Sun: “Yonder Come Day,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Pat-a-Pan,” “White Christmas,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”; any song that lifts your spirits. Don’t fret overmuch about how well you sing.
Sing in new life, brighter days, shorter nights, new beginnings, love, peace, goodwill towards all.