Merry Saturnalia!

Christmas_gifts_under_Christmas_tree_in_Brisbane _2020
Pat here, wishing all a wonderful holiday season!

While you’re wallowing in gifts and possibly debt from buying them, remember that the partying, gift-giving season most likely started with the Roman’s Saturnalia, a celebration of agricultural bounty in honor of the god Saturn, and quite possibly co-mingled with a celebration of the solstice from earlier times since the dates of the celebration fell between Dec 17-23rd.

Several other religious celebrations also mark the end of the year with gift-giving, such as the Jewish festival of lights Hanukkah or the Hindu celebration of Pancha Ganapati in honor of Lord Ganesha. So the end of year tradition was well-established before Santa Claus took over.

But it was the Romans who really got into making sacrifices and wild partying, followed by private gift-giving. In their effusive generosity, the Romans treated even slaves as equals during these celebrations. Generally, the  gifts were of small value such as candles, figurines, and gag gifts. Apparently,  the lowlier the gift, the stronger the bond of friendship it represented. Some bosses often gave a gratuity to their clients or employees to help them purchase their gifts—the first version of the Christmas bonus.

As in everything, the Christian church usurped this holiday and made it about the Magi and the gifts to the Christ child. For good measure, they later threw in the tales of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop and gift-giver, so the pagan holiday became about gifts and goodwill toward men.

And then along came the poem about “The Night Before Christmas” and Santa handing out goodies to good children, and the novella by Dickens of A Christmas Carol telling us all to be good to our neighbors, and the merchants jumped in with both feet and marketed the heck out of gift-giving.

Did you enjoy your Saturnalia?

Tis the Season of … Saturnalia

Ww stonehenge sunrise day of winter solstice

Among other things, this happens on the Solstice

Joanna here, thinking about the Solstice. It’s the 21st of December this year.

The Solstice can show up anytime between 20th December and the 23rd because the calendar in our cell phone or hanging on the wall does not fit neatly into astronomical reality.
Many of us have trouble adjusting to reality.

Thing is, the calendar counts the year as 365 days, even. The universe thinks it’s 365.256 days.

These thing do not match and no amount of refreshing your computer screen is going to change this. We are all playthings in the hands of the gods.

I suppose you could take a post-it note a quarter the size of one of the calendar days and let it dangle off the end of December. That would be more accurate.

Ww sagittaius

Sagittarius, looking pretty cool

Anyhow, that’s why the date of the Solstice changes from year to year.

This year the shortest, darkest day of the year, the Solstice, falls on a Monday.

After all, it’s 2020.

On the Solstice the sun will move into Sagittarius. You’d say into the House of Sagittarius, if you think of the Zodiac signs as living in fancy houses up in the sky, which I am perfectly willing to do.

Ww wagittarius stars

The stars of Sagittarius without the imagination. Less cool.


You’d think this means you can look up into the night sky and get a really good view of the constellation Sagittarius, wouldn’t you?

Au contraire, as the French would say.

When the sun is in Sagittarius it means it’s sitting on top of Sagittarius. You’d have to look directly through the sun to see the constellation. Sagittarius won’t be up at night on the 21st. It’s going to be high in the sky at noon, hiding in the light.


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