‘lo Saturnalia! Christmas Gets Its Start In Ancient Rome – Blogmas, day 5
We are taught that Christianity and the birth of Christ is a deep and meaningful story. It may be uncomfortably shocking and disheartening to adjust to the randomness of the chosen birthday of Jesus Christ and the copy catting of Saturnalia’s festivities.
Mining for the sacredness of Christmas, I turned to my spiritual, traditional aunt who sees sacredness everywhere. After describing Christmas’ past, she expressed what Christmas means to her. Her childhood Christmas stories spoke of a young girl’s excitement. Her joy filled anticipation of positive and magical happenings. The rhythmic repetition of years of childhood traditions enriched her Christmas creation as she aged. The loving, playful and magical events that were bestowed upon her as a youngster were now created for others. With a twinkling eye, she spoke thru sweet love of the memories that emerged while she wrapped gifts and planned the traditional winter feast. She happily anticipated the arrival of friends and family in her vibrantly and seasonally decorated home.
She added, “that for me, it was and is always about being Christ centered – which for me becomes love of family, friends and those in need around us. Sharing. It is a time of giving and I guess that grew out of my Christian teachings – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Be loving in the joy of God having sent His only son on earth to teach us the way of living a God centered life.”
While for many Christmas joy may not place Jesus at the center of the holiday, the adage “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, are words of respect and love for all people. This communal and heart centered value coupled with sharing meaningful moments with friends and family is unquestionably a sacred act. The kind of foundation many believe Christmas is truly teaching and we ought to emulate.
But, many Christians and non-Christians enjoy Christmas today in the same manner as the partying Ancient Romans enjoyed Saturnalia. The over indulgent behavior of Saturnalia thousands of years ago has morphed into the excessive insanity of shopping. Including the bombardment of advertising that lays the ground work for the maddest of dashes thru a store.
This brief study of Christmas’ origins emphasizes that sacredness and riotous behavior has been part of the winter festival of Christmas and Saturnalia for thousands of years. Some of us create winter holidays around reverence, while other’s bang out the gift-sharing holiday by excessively shopping. However present-day people choose to celebrate Christmas, the most mind-blowing feature is that a winter festival that probably began thousands of years before Christ’s birth has overwhelmingly endured with practically identical activities and traditions. Through all the plentiful cultural shifts, frequent wars, and political downfalls a winter festival, now known as Christmas, has continued intact.
Maybe the deep sacredness is in understanding that humans, whether Ancient Romans or modern-day Christians; crave festivals. We require joy, love, connection, and sharing to be center stage in our lives at least once a year. Some of us enrich our meaningful connections thru ancient rituals of star shaped cookie making, winter tree decorating, and enjoyable visits with our family and friends over communally prepared feasts.
Some experience this connection and love by gladly sharing hot chocolate with friends and family while playfully waiting in line for the mad dash to buy, buy, buy. Maybe exchanging shopping strategies while sipping the warm sweet drink enriches the laughter, joy, and connection. Maybe others connect by exchanging online shopping tales or chatting lovingly about evolving family traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
This Christmas and thru every winter festival since the first feast, we reinforce the strong link to the Ancient Romans by living our version of excessive behavior and quiet worship. Try as we might to recapture the sacredness of Christmas, we can’t. It was never there to start with. But we can share love, food, joy, and glad tidings this holiday season thru the silly or honorable activities and traditions that build the joyful, fun, and sacred connectedness to our friends and family. This year, whether you bow in reverence, playfully tip your hat, or over fill your wine goblet acknowledge the worshipping and rowdy Ancient Romans. After all they created the ultimate gift that keeps on giving, our model for Christmas.
‘lo Saturnalia! And Merry Christmas!