Sunday, January 08, 2006

Winter Holidays

What's this empire coming to? Now they want us to stop greeting people with "Io, Saturnalia!" "We have all these different cultures in Rome," they tell us. "We shouldn't offend anyone," they tell us. "We should be inclusive."

We've got the barbarians from the north with their tree decorations and their fire rituals. And the weirdos from Gaul, cutting mistletoe with a golden sickle. And the Mithraists, the Zoroastrians, the Isis cults, and, of course, those characters who hang out in the catacombs. "Hail, Winter!" we're supposed to say. I ask you, what next: we lose the feast? We stop the Solstice parties? No more honoring Ops, goddess of abundance?

I was buying some candles and greenery down by the Forum the other day, and there's old Macrobius with some Visigoth chick, and she goes, "Gut Jule." So I go, "Hey! In this country, we say, 'Io, Saturnalia!' Maybe you should go back to where you came from." Then Macrobius goes, "She can't, she's a slave."

-- Diane Roberts (via)

Living in California for 10 years I sort of lost touch with the concept of "Winter". . . Living in Germany, and now returning to Seattle, I realize how much I missed it. Change is an essential part of life. The seasons create a rhythm, a cosmic inhale and exhale.

The winter holidays are an age-old way to honor that rhythm and to celebrate the community that supports us through the dark times. Halloween (originally Samhain) is the gateway into winter, and the solstice is the gravitational center that Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. orbit around like so many shiny baubles. Some of the holidays in that constellation are newer than others:

Thanksmas: If Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to spend with your family, Thanksmas is the time to share the holiday spirit with your community. This year we went to my old hometown and reconnected with old friends over the food and merriment of their Thanksmas celebration.

Mutual Abundance Day: My family's winter holiday mash-up, in mid January, with bits of the other winter holidays, plus our own additions. The focus is on mutual support and looking ahead to the coming year. With the hubbub of the major holidays behind us, we're able to focus on each other in a much more personal way.

The holiday traditions of today are the result of thousands of years of mixing and matching, every generation adding new things or taking them away, borrowing from other cultures, etc. I'm happy to be a part of that.


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