Image ID: 1623943 The Roman Saturnalia. (1884)
© NYPL Digital Gallery
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:
- "De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis by John Raymond Crawford"
Review by Horace Wetherill Wright
The Classical Weekly, Vol. 15, No. 7 (Nov. 28, 1921), pp. 52-54.
Also available on Roger Pearse's site
- Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and the birth of the Sun
- A translation of John the Lydian, "De Mensibus" 4.158 (on December), from Roger Pearse and relevant to the Bruma/Brumalia.