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Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?

CapriUni 22 Dec 08 - 02:58 PM
Nerd 22 Dec 08 - 07:21 PM
katlaughing 22 Dec 08 - 07:57 PM
CapriUni 22 Dec 08 - 09:09 PM
open mike 22 Dec 08 - 09:35 PM
katlaughing 22 Dec 08 - 10:17 PM
CapriUni 23 Dec 08 - 02:10 AM
CapriUni 23 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM
Nerd 23 Dec 08 - 03:12 PM
CapriUni 23 Dec 08 - 05:56 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: CapriUni
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 02:58 PM

I learned from my high school Latin teacher that the Romans would, as part of their Saturnalia* celebrations, bring an evergreen tree indoors, and decorate it with children's toys.

But I did not, at the time, think to question her about her sources. And that's creeping up on 30 years ago, now.

So I thought I'd turn to the scholars of Mudcat, and ask them:

Can you recommend primary or close secondary sources where I can learn about Saturnalia customs from people who actually took part in them?

And, since this is a music forum, are there any clues to what the celebratory music might have been for this holiday?

Thanks!

*December 17-23


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: Nerd
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 07:21 PM

Macrobius's book Saturnalia would be a start. He was one of the Roman empire's last Pagan writers, and wrote a series of dialogues that take place during Saturnalia. His characters discuss the origins of the holiday, among other things. Several chapters are devoted entirely to jokes and quips by the participants!

I can't find an English language version on the web, but it has been translated, and your local library can probably get a copy for you.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: katlaughing
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 07:57 PM

There's a bit of a translation HERE and that may lead back to more. I haven't explored it more.

I was fascinated by what you posted on the other thread, CU. Glad to watch this one, too. It should be interesting!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: CapriUni
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 09:09 PM

Thanks, Nerd. A name and a title are always a good place to start, and I have resolved to spend more time in my public library in the coming year (Even if I don't turn it into a formal "Resolution")

Thank you, Kat.

It was basically something we did for just one year: ours was a small private school, and the Latin teacher taught all the grades from sixth to twelfth. So one year, she got all the classes together and got permission for an afternoon-long party where we got to practice our Latin. One of the senior students played the role of the priest, and led the procession of bringing in the tree, and said an invocation. Then, th most senior of the students dressed up as Saturn (with scythe, and false beard, and long yellow robes, and his hands bound in paper shackles), and came in and gave a speach he'd written (In Latin) about how we should all live in peace with each other. Then the student playing the priest broke the chains and "Saturn" went around the room handing out small cakes shaped like himself (Okay, so honey cakes with Saturn's image were not available, so the teacher had bought a packet of "Santa" cookies, instead ;-)).

The younger students put on skits of Roman myths, and we ate Italian food potluck lunch and sang Christmas carols that had been translated into Latin. Then it was time to get on the buses to go home. It was a good day.

(Oh, and the "Io" in Io, Saturnalia! is pronounced "Yo!")


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: open mike
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 09:35 PM

which other thread are you referring to?

here is a saturn-related news item

NASA Science News for December 22, 2008

The planet Saturn is doing something rare and beautiful this
holiday season. Find out what in today's story from Science@NASA.

FULL STORY at

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/22dec_crazytilt.htm?list899002


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: katlaughing
Date: 22 Dec 08 - 10:17 PM

THIS ONE about the Solstice.:-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: CapriUni
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 02:10 AM

Thanks, Kat.

I was wondering, which post you were referring to, myself. I couldn't remember if I'd posted my philosophical thoughts about Saturnalia on Mudcat, or just on my private Journal (turns out, it was just in my journal).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: CapriUni
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM

Here's the news story that Open Mike referred to, blickified:

NASA Headlines "Crazy Tilt" (December 22, 2008)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: Nerd
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 03:12 PM

The only evergreen mentioned in connection with Saturnalia feasts in the Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe is the Holly, which was sent AS a gift, and also used as decoration.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Saturnalia 'Tree' customs origins ?
From: CapriUni
Date: 23 Dec 08 - 05:56 PM

Thanks, Nerd.

Somewhere around here on Mudcat (At least, I think it was here, but I can't remember where, nor can I find it through a filter search, so maybe not), that folks would bring in branches from fruit trees, and force them into bloom for the festival.

Holly does seem to be ubiquitous these days...


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