Mankind has found causes for celebration from earliest recorded history. These early celebrations often had important social, political and religious implications, and often were not so different from the champagne, parties and fireworks of today.
The Greeks celebrated the New Year beginning around midsummer at the new moon before the summer solstice. From the music, singing, and dancing at the festivals of Dionysus developed the dithyramb (choral lyric with exchanges between the leader and the chorus) which ultimately became Greek drama.
The Greek festival Lenaea took place in the beginning of winter and celebrated the birth (final fermentation) of the season’s wine. Many of the great Greek tragedies originated during this festival. The festivals’ performances often combined Tragedy and Comedy symbolizing grief that the God has died and joy that He has returned from the Dead.
The Egyptian New Year was celebrated when Sirius—the brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence. Recent discoveries revealed that the first month of the year played host to a “Festival of Drunkenness.” This massive party was tied to the myth of Sekhmet, a war goddess who had planned to kill all of humanity until the sun god Ra tricked her into drinking herself unconscious. In honor of mankind’s salvation, the Egyptians would celebrate with music, revelry and—perhaps most important of all—copious amounts of beer.
In Ancient Rome the Winter Solstice festival Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days. Saturnalian banquets were held from as far back as 217 BC. Grudges and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. Masquerades often occurred during this time.
Honoring revered figures in our religions as well as special events in our families is a long standing human tradition no matter the era or country of origin. The playhouse welcomes you to celebrate this season with a warm family story of A Child’s Christmas in Wales. May your holiday season be filled with your own special family traditions and the creation of lasting memories.