New Year’s Eve as the Globalized Festival


The Bible commands that after having worked for six days, we should rest on the seventh. This day should be different from all others: a day of solid pleasures, of contemplation, a day dedicated to God. A day which divides the “before” and the “after,”’ a border, a measure, “peras,” as the ancient Greeks said. The festive day repeats itself rhythmically, too frequently to call for extravagancy. Yet, Jews and Christians wear their best clothes on the seventh day, prepare a better meal, go to church or to the temple, spend more time together with their families, chat with their neighbors. In the country, peasants share one or several glasses of wine and spirit with their friends, get drunk, sing, and feel happy. For Jews, making love on Sabbath is a “mizve” (a good deed).

The arrival of Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter was always cause for celebration. Rites and festivals flourished to welcome the new seasons. In different places, different people welcomed them very differently. In the case of seasons, there is, again, a “before” and an “after.” The celebrations arose around the turning point, at the border, as the measure. As border and measure, those festive days commanded different ways of speaking, of behaving, different ways of acting, compared with those “normally” accepted during the “before” and the “after.” The “normal” dividing line between permitted and unpermitted, expected and unexpected was up to a degree shifted or lifted.

Those turning points in the rejuvenation of nature were always, and in all the places known to us, connected to the celebration of supra-natural powers, which were believed to be the ultimate causes of both abundance and scarcity. They could be the spirits of the ancestors, gods, demons, etc. Since those envious powers needed to be reconciled, plenty of sacrifices were presented to them, including human sacrifices. During the Roman Saturnalia, the celebration of the god Saturnus, which in December lasted for seven days, was an occasion not just for a whole week of merry-making, but also for drinking bouts, orgies, and all kinds of violence.

After the emergence of the monotheistic religions, celebrating nature will be connected to the celebration of the Creator of nature. Some of the seasonal turning points will acquire a very specific religious significance, for they will present and represent not just a turning point of seasons but also turning points in religion, and, what is even more, a turning point in the world, in history, precisely in redemption history. Those redemptive turning points are inscribed in the long term cultural memory. Not all turning points acquire equal significance. The religious connotations of Purim or Fasching, as occasions of merriment, of masked carnivals, are less significant than those of Easter or Christmas.

New Year’s Eve as the Globalized Festival

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Numero 14 FESTIVAL I agosto, 2015 - Autore:  Condividi


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