Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturnalia, Wright Brothers Day

Image obtained from EyeWitness to
Orville and Wilbur Wright, the owners of a Dayton, Ohio bicycle shop, made mankind's first powered flight on December 17, 1903 on the dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville was at the controls on the very first successful flight.

It comes as no surprise, then, that today would be commemorated as Wright Brothers Day.

Today is also the Ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia. In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who presided over a lost Golden Age. He was identified with the Greek god Cronus, the Titan who also presided over a Golden Age -- and also ate his own children, all except Zeus (who'd been hidden from his father at birth). Zeus would later hurl a stone down his daddy's gullet causing Cronus to vomit up all Zeus's brothers.

Not a particularly lovely story, really.

But the story of the Feast of Saturnalia is more appetizing. It was a festival of lights -- lots of candles and gift-giving -- leading up to the Winter Solstice. A later Roman festival, the birthday of the god Sol Invictus, was celebrated on December 25. Hmmmm. The early Christians were nothing if not good salesmen. They knew what to adapt to their own purposes....

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