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N.S. Gill

A Revivable Brumalia Custom

By November 29, 2011

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Image ID: 1623943 The Roman Saturnalia. (1884)
Image ID: 1623943 The Roman Saturnalia. (1884)
NYPL Digital Gallery
In the U.S., from before Halloween to the day before Christmas, we experience a holiday shopping frenzy/media blitz. Granted, it is accompanied by great lights and decorations, Thanksgiving parades, and a local wintry themed parade, and sometimes creative department store displays. Public spaces are more festive, but a months-long shopping season seems empty to me. If we want to be festive and enjoy holiday spirit, why not celebrate a holiday that lasted for weeks, even if we have to extend it a bit or add other holidays onto it? What do you think?

Brumalia appears to have been an ancient Greco-Roman festival just before the time of the winter solstice. In the Byzantine era, it was celebrated from November 24 until the Saturnalia, December 17, with each day of the event known by a letter of the Greek alphabet. Today would be Zeta (Ζ - lower case: ζ), so if your name begins with a Z, and you're a 6th to 10th century resident of Constantinople, you might be expected by your friends to invite them to a dinner party, probably featuring a slain pig. Perhaps this would be a time to serve the apple-in-mouth boar's head. Although this was the Christian era, the festival of Brumalia appears to have been in honor of the ancient god Cronos, the Greek counterpart to the Roman Saturnalia's god Saturn.

For more on this festival, see:


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