Some Thoughts On Christmas : 1 December 2002

Great Habton has good cause to celebrate Christmas this year. Our local pub closed in January, and, after a long campaign, the Grapes has re-opened under new management. This is a wonderful christmas present for our village at a time when other village pubs are closing all over the country. It's a credit to all involved in the campaign that our village has bucked the national trend.

And why shouldn't we celebrate Christmas and the New Year in our local pub? Christmas comes roughly at about the time of the Winter Solstice - when the days start getting longer; light seems to triumph over darkness - and, dare I say it? - this year, the wishes of our local community prevailed!

The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Winter Solstice. Saturn was the god who was said to have inaugurated a golden age for mankind. His festival was a period of general festivity, licence for slaves, giving of presents and lighting of candles. It was a time for household slaves to change places with their masters, and for parents to indulge their children.

Christians adopted the Roman festival, and made it the time to remember Christ's birthday - the light to come into the world and overcome darkness; the good to conquer evil; the child king, who would bring peace and joy on earth.

By adopting the Roman festival, Christianity preserved many of its pagan customs. Christmas is still a family occasion, when presents are exchanged, children indulged and there is general festivity. Is Father Christmas the representation of St. Nicholas, or a lingering image of the old mirthful god Saturn?

Whatever we think of Christmas, it is not just a religious festival: it is a great family and social occasion too, and where better to spend some time in celebration than at our local village pub?

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