Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author
It’s funny what seasonal fever will do – and I’m not talking about the flu or some other physical malady. No, I’m talking about the Christmas fever, that feverish feel-good madness that translates into overspending, overeating, back-slapping, manic laughing behaviour that is sharply cured when the bank visa statement arrives in January. After a year of being usually solid and responsible, for a few weeks at the end of the year we succumb to the rabid infection that is the Silly Season.
It’s also funny that when one trolls the malls like one does at this time of year, that one is witness to the spectacle of owl eyed youngsters, trussed up in their best garb, being hauled up to Santa on his gilt throne like sacrificial victims to the Glorious Cause. Some little ones accept their fate with shy resignation while others scream blue murder – and let’s face it, after a year of being sternly told by Mum and Dad about stranger danger, they are now confronted with the terrifying spectre of a big, bearded chap in a fire-red suit and tasseled cap who is as strange as they come – and the grinning Mum and Dad are there to capture their moments of terror on camera, the sadists! Well, that is how I remember my early years anyway, and it was not until I was about five that I realised that Santa was not going to carry me off in his black sack or that the reindeer were not about to eat me.
There is something distinctly pagan in our enjoyment of Christmas – and that is not surprising, if you know anything about history. After all, December 25 used to be the original festival of the Persian god Mithras, a deity very popular with the Roman army. The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia also coincides with this time of year, where mad partying, feasting and practical jokes marked the end of the old calendar year. And that most hallowed of yuletide traditions, the Christmas tree, had its origins among the ancient fierce tribes of northern Europe – Germany, to be more precise – who used to sacrifice youths of noble birth to sacred trees in order to appease the forest spirits. Early Christian missionaries – running a very high risk of being seized by the enraged locals and burned alive in wicker cages, I may add – managed to convince the pagans that decorating trees achieved the same purpose without the need for shedding blood.
So, taking all this into account, it is no surprise that many fundamentalist Christians over the years have frowned upon the excesses at this time of year. Around 1650 the Puritan Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell (the ultimate party pooper, long before Scrooge) even banned celebrations over the yuletide season. However, over the centuries ancient ritual and religious belief has merged to create a worldwide phenomenon. Even in the far reaches of India and Africa, gurus and witchdoctors acknowledge Christmas, not just as the birthday of Christ, but as the one time of year where good prevails over evil and when everyone stops and becomes just that bit nicer and happier to everyone else around them. It’s just sad that that giddy infection of peace and goodwill does not run its course throughout the rest of the year.
So, pagan origins or not, let us succumb to the festive disease. Our purses may be poorer and our waistlines may be thicker, but our spirits will be all the richer for it.
God bless us, everyone!
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