Posts Tagged ‘Puritans’

Letter From New York 12 21 14 Io, Saturnalia!

December 21, 2014

There was a light dusting of snow when I woke this morning, just enough to return a little Christmas magic to the countryside. It was a usual morning for me, coffee and the NY Times and some household chores. Right now I am doing a load of napkins in the washing machine so I have an ample supply for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.

Things have been organized to go to the cleaners including a couple of tablecloths that need pressing to bring them up to Holiday snuff. Recipes are scattered across the dining room table to put together the shopping lists for the next few days. Everything is humming along.

Household cleaning is scheduled for Tuesday and the marathon of quiche making will happen later today and tomorrow. Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is sleeping on the settee by the front door, quietly waiting for them to come back from church. Jazz versions of Christmas carols play on Pandora.

It’s a pretty good day at the cottage, a soft, sleepy sort of day.

While wanting to shut the world out this morning, I didn’t do it. The NY Times beckoned to me too much and I curled in bed with coffee and my iPad to read the major stories of the day.

They’re not very Christmasy.

A man who had posted on social media that he was out to kill some policemen gunned down two police officers in Brooklyn in an execution style killing. He had just shot his girlfriend in the stomach, who will live. He headed to New York from Maryland and had committed the murders by the time the warnings came to be watching for him had arrived. He said they were retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. He then committed suicide in a subway station.

Kim Jung-un, the North Korean dictator, is threatening us. I’m not sure exactly what he’s threatening us with but he is threatening us. He’s not happy the United States doesn’t want to take him up on the offer of a joint investigation of the Sony hack. So he is threatening us with mighty mischief.

So, the world is still a pretty bleak place out there but Christmas is arriving and thoughts of the Holiday fill the world. Thank goodness!

“Io Saturnalia!” used to be the greeting that filled Roman streets during the weeklong festival they celebrated in the middle of winter, starting around December 17th. They exchanged presents and ate and drank to excess. Sound familiar? Christians co-opted the festival in the 4th Century AD, turning it in to Christmas. Since some Christian historians believe that Christ was actually born in the spring, early Christians moved the date up to coincide with the popular Saturnalia.

Our Puritan forefathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Apparently you could get in a lot of trouble with them if you had any parties around December 25th. It was a very naughty thing to do.

But the Puritans couldn’t hold down a good party; Christmas became legalized in the 1680’s and America was off and running in making this Holiday uniquely its own. It was a frenzy of gift giving, not to everyone’s appreciation. People were lamenting the commercialization of Christmas back in 1904. People have been lamenting that ever since.

This year I have pulled back some and focused on a few good friends and relatives. I make quiches for other friends and my neighbors. It feels good to be simpler this year. It feels good to be giving presents from my kitchen.

There was, of course, splurging on a few people. For them, I managed, I think, to find things for them that would both be useful and, hopefully, treasured in years to come.

I’d like to think my Christmas gifts would speak to the recipients in years to come, fostering enjoyment and recollection even when I am not present in person.