Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
as symbols of, or even charms to ensure, the return of the sun's power after the solstice. The most remarkable and typical feature, however, of the Saturnalia was the mingling of all classes in a common jollity. Something of the character of the celebration (in a Hellenized form) may be gathered from the "Cronia" or "Saturnalia" of Lucian, a dialogue between Cronus or Saturn and his priest. We learn from it that the festivities were marked by " drinking and being drunk, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of tremulous hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water," and that slaves had licence to revile their lords.9
The spirit of the season may be judged from the legislation which Lucian attributes to Cronosolon, priest and prophet of Cronus, much as a modern writer might make Father Christmas or Santa Klaus lay down rules for the due observance of Yule. Here are some of the laws :
''■All business, be it public or private, is forbidden during the feast days, save such as tends to sport and solace and delight. Let none follow their avocations saving cooks and bakers.
All men shall be equal, slave and free, rich and poor, one with another.
Anger, resentment, threats, are contrary to law.
No discourse shall be either composed or delivered, except it be witty and lusty, conducing to mirth and jollity"
There follow directions as to the sending ot presents of money, clothing, or vessels, by rich men to poor friends, and as to poor men's gifts in return. If the poor man have learning, his return gift is to be "an ancient book, but of good omen and festive humour, or a writing of his own after his ability. . . . For the unlearned, let him send a garland or grains of frankincense." The " Cronosolon " closes with " Laws of the Board," of which the following are a few :
" Every man shall take place as chance may direct; dignities and birth and wealth shall give no precedence.
shops at Christmas, and of the paste images which English bakers used to make at this season.10
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