Since this isn't a "Pagan 101" blog I haven't felt the need to post about how every single tradition currently associated with christmas was already a well establish Pagan tradition that the christians once railed against but eventually adopted. There, I just did. Actually, they did. I adore the annotated rant folks and wish they would rant on! Or at least update their old stuff! Glad that was covered! However! I'm not going to let this stop me from posting about something fun.
I was writing a snarky post about how I plan to have a holiday party this year: It will include feasting, cakes, candy, alcohol, lights, decorations, hat wearing, gift exchanges and gambling. No, it's not to celebrate christmas." It's a Saturnalia party!
Most of the Saturnalia traditions made it into the general christmas traditions: The gift exchange, the stockings by the fire, the man with a long beard and flying mammal leaving gifts in exchange for an offering, the mistletoe, the chestnuts, the bells, even the hats. Don't forget "The Yule Log." They didn't even bother to change the name on that one...
What you don't hear about in the holiday songs is gambling! One of the many Italian traditions, at least Italian-American traditions, is gambling!
Here's how La Vigilia (christmas eve) went in my family:
We all went over to Aunt Mary's house (My Grandfather's sister, the eldest sister and matriarch of the family)
There was the antipasto, candy and snacks
The feast of 5 fishes... seriously, it makes my kinda nauseous to think about, but that was it, you don't eat meat on La Vigilia. But you do have 5 different fish courses and a pasta course with fish sauce. Happily, the deserts didn't include fish.
What a table full of sweets! Home made pastries, cookies, strufles, cakes, chocolate, and fruit and nuts too lol
After the gift exchange (which, when there were little kids at the celebration, included a man in a red suit with a long beard handing them out) the women would go downstairs to play pokeno and the men would be upstairs playing poker.
The tradition of gambling continues! I have no idea why this never clicked with me before. I've known both facts, that Saturnalia included public games (In my mind the whole of ancient Rome turned into Vegas for a week!) and that on La Vigilia but the neural pathway connecting these two things did not exist until now. Means I need more sleep. Off to do that now!