The photographs on this post are of a ruined early Christian church in Kerry in Ireland, and are reproduced here to show the beauty of such places at this time of year, and perhaps allow some exiles from Ireland to glimpse their homeland, and to be reassured that not all that makes it so special has gone . They are also chosen deliberately to take us for a short moment away from the frenetic bustle of shopping malls and high streets, it is in such places you can regain a serenity that should also be part of this time of year. And it really is upon us again this festive season called Christmas.
Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.In the 4th century AD , Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, the Christian hierarchy of the time named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be the birth date of Jesus’ Christ.
Now the festive period has returned somewhat to its saturnalian origins, except that now what is worshipped is consumption and excess. The purpose of this post is not however to cast a scrooge-like bucket of cold water on what for so many people, for whatever reason, is a special time of year. So I hope that all the readers of this weblog have a Happy Christmas, and a healthy and peaceful 2008. I hope that these images from rural Kerry evoke some sense of the timelessness, tranquility, and quiet remembrance of times, people and places, which was traditionally part of this special time of year.