Saturnalia by Ernesto Biondi
December, the tenth month. Known by the Celts as The Winter Monat (month) the Danes as Yule or Christ Month. December's full moon is the cold night moon. It would make a great month for a celebration, something to break the gloom of the northern hemisphere.
The ancient Romans held the granddaddy of all December holidays, Saturnalia in honor of titan Saturn. Originally, a one day (December 17, 217 BC) pr stunt to get the minds of the populace off a catastrophic defeat of the Roman army by the Carthaginians, it caught on, became an annual affair, expanded to a week despite official attempts to shorten the holiday. Saturnalia was a time of celebration, gift giving, and visits to friends. Unconsciously, Saturnalia rituals continue to this day. The Boxing Day tradition of the master serving the servants has its roots in this ancient Roman feast.
Jesus was not likely born in December so why do we celebrate his nativity this month?
To grow, the Roman church had to overcome several obstacles. The new religion had to prove 1. that its god is stronger than the established god, and 2. ensure that newcomers aren't disadvantaged by becoming members. It would be bad salesmanship to ask Romans to join the new church and oh by the way we don't do that Saturnalia thing you look so forward to here. Something had to be created to compete with the old. Creative thinkers invented the Nativity to The Presentation (January 1) as a substitute. That's my theory.
Happy World AIDS day.