by Neva Bodin
In reading up on the history of Christmas, I found its predecessor was Saturnalia. This doesn’t sound like much fun to me. According to Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural god who ruled the earth when humans enjoyed bounty without labor.
(Picture on right)”John Reinhard Weguelin–The Roman Saturnalia (1884)” by John Reinhard Weguelin – Old painting/drawing. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –
Celebrating this time, a holiday called Saturnalia was held from December 17 through the 23rd or the 25th. It involved much partying, nakedness, human sacrifice, gambling and drinking according to some sources. There was also gift giving. And some articles linked modern caroling to people being forced to run naked in the streets singing, as something done during Saturnalia.
The Christians, not knowing which theory was true of the actual date Jesus Christ was born, decided to try and tempt the pagans into worshiping Jesus, according to some sources, by tagging a holiday honoring the birth of Christ onto Saturnalia. (Apparently, everyone was gathered for one, why not stay for the other?) December 25th was chosen.
There really was a lot more to this origin of Christmas, and much of it I didn’t like finding out about. I am a Polyanna. I want everything beautiful and peaceful with love floating in the air.
So, since Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, I didn’t want to find out it had less than spotless origins. For while the real reason many celebrate Christmas is pure, I wonder how many are not caught up in the “hustle and bustle” of the season.
“Julemiddag”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julemiddag.jpg#/media/File:Julemiddag.jpg
Buying gifts, sending cards, plays, parties, decorating (we all know the ritual) can take the joy out of the season for some. Stress of having to “do it all” causes loss of sleep and anguish; stress of not being able to “do it at all” because of negative circumstances can cause the same. Then there are those who could “do it all” but have a tragedy or anniversary of a tragedy at this time of year to contend with, so feel doubly sorrowful about such a thing happening at Christmas.
In our minds, everything should be perfect. Two of the most frequently used words during the Christmas season are “joy” and “peace.” And we are so disappointed if we don’t feel those emotions.
I have an angel on top of a miniature Christmas tree. I have been so busy trying to juggle many balls this past couple weeks, which included getting ready for a Christmas and three family birthday celebrations yesterday, I hadn’t really looked at this angel topper as I set the tree on the buffet. But I really noticed her one day. And I laughed.
I imagined this little angel in the same pickle as we earthlings. Harried, hurried and rushing to assist fellow angels to get ready for the big day. And then she had a deadline to be on top my tree, looking like an angel!
Her hair is frizzed out and sticking up as if she ran heavenly fingers through it as she attempted to tear it out. One wing is lower than the other and folded over her shoulder.
Anyone feel that way while dressing their little angels for a Christmas play? Or dressing yourself and wrapping a present for that party with co-workers or friends? Or planning the meal for guests and family? Or stringing outside lights on a cold, windy, December day?
Yet on her face is a serene smile and her eyes are closed, as if she is savoring the joy and peace of the holiday. How does she manage it?
Perhaps by not caring how the holiday originated, but by remembering the reason she celebrates it today, and knowing no matter what happens externally to her or her loved ones, if she hangs on to the real reason that those of us who celebrate Christmas, do celebrate it, there is joy and peace waiting for her and us.
And remembering that reason, even if my hair’s a mess, and life is chaos, I now smile serenely as I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!