Noël nouvelet

Quand je m’éveillai, et j’eus assez dormi,
Ouvris les yeux, vis un arbre fleuri,
Dont il sortait un bouton vermeillet.
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

When I woke up, and had slept enough,
I opened my eyes and saw a tree in flower
From which there emerged a little red bud.
Noël, etc.

It’s impossible to escape the imagery of the Christmas season, whether it’s the holly and the ivy, the menorah, the three sailing ships, the wise men riding camels across the desert following the bright star in the sky, sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus and his elves, the Christmas tree, abundant wreaths, Christmas music, the nativity scene, magical snowbound country houses or the festive board. Christmas Day marks the crest of the popular revelry though some prefer to distingush Christmas Eve often marked by a Midnight Mass.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.

Ultimately the religious events or the festive celebrations of the Winter Solstice identify a transition both temporal and spiritual, an awakening. passage and progress. The red berries mark not only the Christian metaphor of Christ but also the brilliance of the conversion. As the days begin to grow longer the prospect of transformation and gradation colours the future with renewed ambition and promise.

Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival and holiday in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 25 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves as it was seen as a time of liberty for both slaves and freedmen alike. A common custom was the election of a “King of the Saturnalia”, who gave orders to people, which were followed and presided over the merrymaking. The gifts exchanged were usually gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days”

For our part we have the privilege to join my sister and her husband at their charming home located nearby Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal for a celebratory luncheon today. The social engagement is partly in recognition of our abandonment of travel after dark (a common complaint of the elderly). We’ll also have the advantage of a brief outing and the distraction associated therewith from our habitual affairs. Meanwhile we have friends on the other side of the world in the South Pacific Ocean (Melbourne and Wellington)  who are already a day ahead; others in the Antarctica, South Pole; or Paris, France; British Columbia; Longboat Key; and nearby in Carleton County and Renfrew County.

Best wishes to one and all!