Xmas is only 3 days away, the winter solstice begins today, and the holiday season is well under way by now. And so I should take a short space of time to reflect on the nature of the season. At one time, I read about the Roman deity Silenus, and his connection to the modern day Santa Claus. It brought up a connection between the holiday season and festive abandon; merrymaking, excess, revelry, indulgence, drunkenness – all represented by the soused deity Silenus (and, for that matter, Dionysus), and reflected in Santa Claus’ jolly expression, soused face, and festive plumpness.
It seems to make sense that the holiday season would be tied to the likes of Silenus, Dionysus, and Saturn, and that the Roman predecessor of the modern Christmas/Yule would be tied to indulgence. The holiday season, being a time of the celebration of the winter solstice, represents the imminent end of the current annual cycle, the climax of the old year. In terms of the seasons, we are at the peak of darkness when we hit the winter solstice, and we can look forward to the eventual return of light. When we celebrate the closing days of the year, we can feel a seasonal release of sorts, an approaching of the end, and we relieve ourselves with great indulgence until the beginning of the new year. Saturn represents the waning of old before the arrival of the new, hence his depiction around the time of New Year’s Day alongside Baby New Year – a representation of the imminent new year. Deities like Silenus and Dionysus represent revelry and base indulgence of the senses, perfectly befitting the time of revelry. It’s also worth noting that Saturn’s festival of Saturnalia was a time of the subversion of the normal social order of Roman society, a reversal of norms and positions, effectively ushering in a time of liberation. Some also felt that Saturnalia represented a time of the releasing of souls into immortality. In any case, this sense of liberation from the cares of the old year (and, in ancient times, the order of the old year) perfectly befits the time of release, the climax of old, before the end of the year and the beginning of the new year.
This truly befits the spirit of what we now call Christmas, Yule, or Xmas; not the mass of the newborn Christ (despite its title), but the mass of the winter solstice leading up to the new year. I can’t think of the winter solstice embodying anything else, and I certainly can’t think of a genuinely Christian mass of Christ being worth celebrating because everything that makes our winter solstice is simply irrelevant to that Christian story of the birth of Jesus (especially given that Jesus’ actual birthdate probably wasn’t December 25th) and the anti-materialism he is held to have championed. No, it is the decadence, indulgence, and the release of revelry of the celebration of winter solstice and the end of the current year that makes our holiday season what it is.
One last thing in advance: Happy Birthday Mithras.