In the latter half of the 1500s the Puritans took over much of Europe, urged on by Queen
Elizabeth (the first of course, quite a different woman to the second, renowned for her hedonism)
They did not believe in having fun, not dissimilar to the Taliban today.
The first thing they did was to ban Christmas altogether, claiming, accurately that it did not get a single mention in the Bible. Claiming, correctly again that it was a pagan ritual of indulgence based on the Roman Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was a bachanal of debauchery and depravity where the poorest peasant was made the king for a day and all his foolish decrees were to be obeyed, such as; everyone must remain naked. The slaves were waited on by their masters. Absurdity was the order of the day.
Xmas was banned from 1647 till 1660- anyone found celebrating was fined 5 shillings- a king’s ransom in those days. The baking of minced pies was also banned. (Draconian indeed!) Upon the promulgation of these onerous edicts there was rioting in the streets. Blood was spilt. Lives were lost.
In New England (what was to become the United States) Xmas was banned until 1870. In Scotland it was not made a public holiday until 1958 (l kid you not)
A key item of worship in the northern regions is The Yuletide log that once burned brightly all of Xmas day, a custom that has withered here in the antipodes for some unknown reason, whilst in the U.S. it has been contemporized:
There is a Yultide log channel on the television so one can watch it burning all day long.
( Believe me, l have seen it with my own eyes, but l can tell you, it is not a real log. It burns all day without diminishing.
Perhaps this is one of the many miracles of Jesus Christ our Saviour?)
So that is Xmas or Saturnalia, a northern midwinter festival, absolutely nothing to do with the Midsummer Festival that we all celebrate around the world at the Summer Solstice. As we have very little record of traditional midsummer festivities here in the Great Southern Land, having exterminated the participants before documenting their amusing habits, ( something the anthrapologists are a bit peeved about, and rightly so) we must fall back on the habits of our European ancestors. These were people who knew how to party, not yet having invented Public Liability Insurance and Risk Assessment Protocols.
It was a time of respite between the sowing and the harvesting, a time of healing and a time of fertility. 77 herbs were gathered to cure all the known diseases plus The Unknown Disease.
A bonfire was lit of immense proportions (No Total Fire Bans in those days) Once everyone was sufficiently inebriated they were required to leap over the fire and even run through the glowing ashes. Those who piked out would not have a good harvest and their house would burn down. Witches were traditionally placed on the top of the pyre but now-a-days that is considered a breech of O,H & S.
Young maidens found this an ideal time to pick up the usually catatonically shy young men. The idea was to remove ones vestments beside a pool in a quite glade in the forest. Peering into the waters, your future husband would miraculously appear out of nowhere.( l am assured this time honoured practice still renders similar results to this day)
So what were some of the other weird cults doing the rounds back in yester-year?
What were the Jews, the Muslims, the Zoroastrians, the Yazidis getting up to? Well it turns out the dates of their festivals vary from year to year and over the millenia have long ceased to bear any relation to the solar year (how long it takes the earth to go around the sun – 365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds) Due no doubt, to their lack of understanding of astronomy, phisics and mathematics, and how thet interact on a yearly basis.
The Christians however, under the astute rule of Pope Gregory rectified the problem way back in 1582. The Julian Calendar had become hopelessly out of sink with the solar year, by a whopping 10 days. This was simply rectified by erasing 10 days from the calendar year. Alas, those who missed their birthdays were not amused. There was rioting in the streets, blood was spilt, lives were lost.
The Gregorian calendar uses this simple and effective formula. i suggest you memorize it for future reference:
Every fourth year is a leap year – we add an extra day, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is. Thus we keep in sink for thousands of years. Neat huh!
So here we are today, 5 centuries later and no other religion is yet willing to adopt this very practical calendar, simply because it was started by a rival religion. Therein lies the problem of religion itself: When faith and common sense collide, it is common sense that invariably loses out.