Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmastide


Now would be the time to celebrate.
Eric at the Daily Eudemon remarked that if people have post holiday depression, they probably followed the American custom of celebrating throughout Advent. It's a good point.
Kids understand the season of Christmas, no doubt because they have the week off. Adults, who take their vacation time this week, may also understand. While those who pray and looked forward to the Nativity, will especially understand the joy of the season.
The Lord or Abbot of Misrule.
Today is Boxing Day in the UK and Canada, my favorite resource, Wkipedia, has the history:
"There are disparate theories as to the origins of the term. The more common stories include:

It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas 'box' to those who have worked for them throughout the year. This is still done in Britain for postmen and paper-boys - though now the 'box' is usually given before Christmas, not after.

In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.

In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.

In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left." Wkipedia
(Boxing day may be a good way to re-gift the gifts you neither like or want - rather than going to the department stores to exchange them, yeah, that's not going to fly.)
Now the Lord of Misrule goes back to Mediveal times, the origins of which are traced to pagan Rome, wherein it was celebrated for the feast of Saturnalia. Again, Wkipedia:
"The Lord of Misrule, known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots, was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia. The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. The celebration of the Feast of Fools was outlawed by the Council of Basel that sat from 1431, but it survived to be put down again by the Catholic Queen Mary I in England in 1555.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were turned topsy-turvy as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era." Wikipedia
As Carnival, which really begins on Twelfth Night, January 6th, the Church would often condemn the practices associated with the Lord of Misrule. (It is so easy for us mortals to become debauched.) Yet a re-adaptation of the custom, with discretion, could help people celebrate Christmas well, while refraining from the temptation to be so caught up in the manufactured commercial observance of the Holiday, which more or less ends on Christmas day night - for those who fall for the hype.
It makes me wonder if much of the holiday blues isn't the result of celebrating too much before Christmas, as Eric suggests. Or is it that many people in our culture lack an authentic spirituality, not to mention catechesis?
I'll tell you this, if my Company (which is a Catholic Company) would host our annual Christmas party the week after Christmas, instead of the week before, I would definitely attend...although it interferes with every one's vacation time I suppose.
In the days I entertained, I always had a St. Nicholas dinner, and then, an Epiphany party, and little gifts were given at both to all of my guests. I more or less stopped doing these, since guests caught on and started bringing me gifts - they didn't understand that it was just for them to receive and enjoy, and the events became an obligation to buy something for me and each other in return. That gift giving thing can get so out of control. (That could explain another reason people get depressed after Christmas, they have to pay the bills. Or they didn't get the coat they wanted!:)

2 comments:

  1. Delightful and informative!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You mean you don't celebrate Boxing Day in the US? Unfortunately, in Canada, it's become just a day to shop til you drop, and has lost all its traditional meaning. In fact, most Canadians wouldn't be able to recite its meaning or origin.

    ReplyDelete

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