Or... how about the ever-popular:
Feast of Fools, the Feast of Asses (yep, Asses!!), Natalis Invicti, Mithraism,and lots more holiday fun!
The Feast of Fools AND Asses
As I mentioned earlier... you are about to experience one freakin' enormous bumper car-like collision of winter traditions celebrated through the centuries. You may find yourself boldly going where you haven't gone before. In that case, please fasten your seat-belts 'cause "no fault" insurance may not cover your injuries.
But before we get started... this page is very incomplete without giving credit to an exquisite writer: Gregory Nigosian of Chicago, Illinois. The first part of this particular file - The Feast of Fools and Asses -- is excerpted from several quotes he penned. A link to his 'Christmas Reflections' is found at the bottom of this file. The last part of this file is information found on the other links. (I will source all this better...)
But for now...
If the old writings of Virgil, the Roman philosopher/ poet (70-19 B.C.) can be relied on, he details the ancient Saturnalia named for Saturnus, the Roman god of seeds and sowing... as the traditional merry making end to the Roman year.
"All Rome seemed to go mad on this holiday," wrote Seneca, a Roman statesman, describing the Saturnalia. Beginning mid-December, work came to a grinding halt for several days as Romans took to the streets with lighted candles as protection from dark spirits... while raucously shouting, 'Io Saturnalia!'.
In Christmas Feasts from History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981 Lorna J. Sass writes:
"The week-long festival reached its peak on or about December 25, a day set aside for special reverence to the sun. Influence by the Persian religion of Mithraism, the Romans celebrated Dies solis invicti nati, The Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, the moment in its cycle when the sun was at its nadir, poised to offer a bountifully increasing gift of daylight, so essential to man and all growing things.
"Since there is considerable evidence to suggest the Christ was not actually born on December 25, many scholars agree that the main reason for establishing this date for the celebration of the Nativity was that the earliest Church leaders wished to substitute a Christian holiday for the well-established pagan Saturnalia. Obviously, the plan worked brilliantly.
--The Feast of Fools AND Asses --
"The Feast of Fools is two things, mainly.
"First, it is a parody of the Mass. That is clear when you hear a line such as:
Kyrie -haw -haw eleison.
Or this prayer:
Let us drink. Take from us, we beseech thee, Bacchus, all our clothes, that we may be worthy, with naked bodies, to enter into the tavern. Unto us all, drink without end.
"Second, and perhaps more important, it is a "turning upside down of all values," as a way of beginning the new year. Here is how Dr. Ren Clemencic describes it:
"The Feast of Fools... of the sub-deacons was held during the High and Late Middle Ages in the period between Christmas and Epiphany and particularly on New Year's day. ["Occasional prohibitions ... and attempts at reform remained ineffectual until well into the 16th century."] The principal scene of the festival was the church itself, but the entire town often pariticipated in the processions and cavalcades.
"These festivals were, in fact, relics of extremely ancient rituals of rebirth and renewal which took place at the beginning of the year and involved the turning upside down of all values. Nothing was too sacred to be spared: the Christian religion was the force that permeated everything. Only within this framework was the exuberant, therapeutic "sloughing of the skin" of the clergy possible."
Clemencic, quoting K.F. Flögel (Geschichte des Grotesk-Komischen):
"In the cathedrals a Fool's Bishop was elected. He celebrated a solomn Mass and spoke the blessing. The disguised clergy danced and skipped into the choir singing bawdy songs. At the altar, under the nose of the priest who was reading the Mass, the sub-deacons devoured sausages, played at cards and dice before his eyes, and placed pieces of old shoe soles and excrement instead of incense into the censer so that the foul odour assailed his nostrils.
"After the Mass everybody ran, danced and leapt about the church as the fancy took him and indulged in the most unrestrained excesses, some even stripping themselves completely naked. Whereupon they clambered onto carts laded with excrement, had themselves drawn through the town and pelted the accompanying mob with filth."
WOW!! Now... THAT's quite a festive, near picture perfect Currier and Ives holiday party scene! Did anyone remember to bring their Polaroid?! A veritible Kodak moment!
Giddy- up, giddy-up, giddy-up let's go! Let's look at the show!! I LOVE that song!! Pack up the kids, don't forget the dog. We've got some serious Seasonal sight-seeing to do.
-- Mithraism --
"Mithraism was emphatically a soldier religion: Mithra, its hero, was especially a divinity of fidelity, manliness, and bravery; the stress it laid on good fellowship and brotherliness, its exclusion of women, and the secret bond amongst its members have suggested the idea that Mithraism was Masonry amongst the Roman soldiery. At the same time Eastern slaves and foreign tradesmen maintained its propaganda in the cities. When magi, coming from King Tiridates of Armenia, had worshipped in Nero an emanation of Mithra, the emperor wished to be initiated in their mysteries.
"As Mithraism passed as a Phrygian cult it began to share in the official recognition which Phrygian worship had long enjoyed in Rome. The Emperor Commodus was publicly initiated. Its greatest devotee however was the imperial son of a priestess of the sun-god at Sirmium in Pannonia, Valerian, who according to the testimony of Flavius Vopiscus, never forgot the cave where his mother initiated him.
"In Rome, he established a college of sun priests and his coins bear the legend "Sol, Dominus Imperii Romani". Diocletian, Galerius, and Licinius built at Carnuntum on the Danube a temple to Mithra with the dedication: "Fautori Imperii Sui".
"But with the triumph of Christianity Mithraism came to a sudden end. [Huh? Well, perhaps this is what some historians conclude. But such death pronouncements hastily scribbled by the coroners and keepers of recorded time... leave me perplexed trying to figure out where all these bizarre attachments to an otherwise crowded winter calendar come from?! IF... Mithraism died, what's ALLLL this stuff? Oh yeah, it's Christmas. -- <I know... you're saying: giddy up you fool, move your ass, get on with this file... and shut up, too!!] Under Julian it had with other pagan cults a short revival. The pagans of Alexandria lynched George the Arian, bishop of the city, for attempting to build a church over a Mithras cave near the town. The laws of Theodosius I signed its death warrant. The magi walled up their sacred caves; and Mithra has no martyrs to rival the martyrs who died for Christ.
-- Natalis Invicti --
"The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont's epoch-making "Textes et Monuments" etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355. Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, 1², p. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274.
"Filippo del Torre in 1700 first saw its importance; it is marked, as has been said, without addition in Philocalus' Calendar. It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355)."
For additional history links:
Catholic Encyclopedia: FEAST OF ASSES Now, the part we've all been waiting for. Doesn't this sound interesting!
Like I said... So what's the fuss about this Day, or eleven more for a total of Twelve... anyway? After all, Christ was born in the fall -- on the Feast of Trumpets.
Isaiah wrote: "In the last days there would be a monument to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, a stone monument at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of All Things... in the land of Egypt. For they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and He shall send them a Saviour, and a Great One, and He shall Deliver them...[in that Day]."
To Seven WONDERS in My World including the Great Pyramid of Giza... and other interesting subjects... including The Nazca Line Drawings and Ancient maps.