A very well attended meeting got Tarvin Meeting Point's New Year programme under way with a look at some Christmas and New Year customs around the world.The start of many of the traditions was the merging of the theology of the Christian religion with the pagan traditions found around mid-winter.
It is impossible for many of us to imagine how disconcerting it must have been for early man to see the days get shorter and shorter, and to imagine the relief that must have been felt when the year changed and the sun started to return. No wonder there was a need to rejoice, feast, celebrate and honour whatever gods were deemed responsible for this apparent miracle.
It is also hard to imagine surviving on the produce of the previous harvest and wondering if food would last, after all, we are now a people who get into a mild panic if Sainsbury's is closed for 24hours!
European traditions can start with Advent at the beginning of December and still be going strong at Epiphany at the beginning of January. The generous nature of the 10th century Turkish bishop, St Nicholas, seems to have become a part of most traditions, though sometimes they have been overtaken by the more ubiquitous Santa Claus. Italy have their own gift giver Befana, an old crone who rides a broomstick while in Scandinavia, St Lucia holds pride of place. A number of naughty, if not downright evil, creatures abound in many countries, Schwarte Piet, Krampus and the Yule Goat, being some of the better known.
What struck the group was that in many countries Christmas did not seem to take up quite as much of the autumn as it does here. In Spain it is the drawing of the massive national lottery, El Gordo on Dec 22nd that really gets the celebrations under way. Many countries have their main celebratory meal on Christmas Eve but, wherever you go, Christmas is the time for eating the best food the locality has to offer.
Tarvin Meeting Point has started their defense of their Village Quiz title and are through to the second round.
The next meeting of the group will be on Thursday 23rd January for a wine tasting