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The Time of the Season

            There are so many different cultural traditions and celebrations surrounding this time of year. The time of the season is astronomically called the winter solstice, where the shortest day and the longest night occur. Some of these yearly celebrations may have served as precursors to the Christmas that we know today. If there is one thing I have learned it is that culture and the traditions that surround it change and grow, borrowing from one and giving to another.

You’ve no doubt heard the word yuletide used in carols and Christmas songs over the years, but facts about the time of year are hard to place to any one specific region or time. Yuletide is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples that has been associated with several gods and celebrations from many countries dating as far back as the 4th century. While the specific customs varied from region to region and the specific time they were all winter festivals and celebrations. Ale was consumed to celebrate the grain harvest and a feast was held. Peace was apparently an important concept throughout the cultures, as surviving records state that duels were postponed until after the festival had passed. Many traditions are tied to yuletide in some non-specific way. The burning of the Yule-log and the bringing of evergreen tree branches into the house are both said to protect the life of the trees for the next year. There is some evidence that Christmas Eve might have had a fertility event associated with it called “Mothers’ Night”. Some scholars have connected the night with a “Wild Hunt” where there is increased supernatural activity.

There are other winter celebrations that have been far easier for scholars to authenticate. The ancient Roman time of the season was called Saturnalia, a festival of light that lead to the winter solstice. Many candles were lit to symbolize the quest for truth and knowledge, and to celebrate the winter solstice. Running from the 17th to the 24th of December is the ancient roman festival of Saturnalia began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, a banquet, gift-giving, partying for days, and a continual atmosphere of celebration. Holiday was the most important aspect of the festival. No work was allowed. Schools were closed, as were courts, and warfare. Social norms were relaxed and in some cases completely reversed. Slaves were treated to a banquet and allowed to speak freely to their masters without fear of punishment. Gambling was commonplace. Roman citizens wore a coned-shaped felt hat and colourful clothing to dinner instead of the usual toga.

No matter the place in the world, no matter which culture, this season has always been a time when grievances were put aside, food and drink were consumed, and festivities were had. Be it for spiritual reasons, to mark the changing of the year, or to reaffirm our connection with each other one thing remains the same: this is the time of the season is to celebrate.

By Shannon Marie

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posted on: October 16, 2017 3:48 AM

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