冬至这一天具有天文(astronomical)、文化(cultural)和宗教(religous)意义。在北半球,冬至是一年中白天最短的时刻。我们在这一天祭奠逝去的亲人,小时候长辈就会吓唬小孩说冬至晚上街上有很多鬼魂游荡,千万不能出门。尽管冬天给人的感觉是黑暗和寒冷,生灵也进入休眠,世界仿佛沉睡了一般,但是,冬至这一天也标志着太阳的转向,从这一天结束开始,白天会变得越来越长,冬天开始的时候,也意味着它的结束将要到来。

  自古以来,许多不同的文明都会顺应自然界的法则,庆祝冬至这一天,庆祝即将慢慢变长的白昼。围绕着冬至前后,历史上有许多不同的庆祝节日,例如,在基督教传立之前的古代波兰,人们会以互相原谅和分享食物的方式庆祝冬至。如今这个传统还在波兰保留:从圣诞节开始的12天,这段时间被称为“Gody”,是一年中最重要的庆祝时刻。波兰人认为这12天中的每一天都对应预言着接下来一年的每个月的天气。

  而历史上更著名的恐怕是古罗马人在冬至时节的庆祝节日:saturnalia。很多人应该都认识Saturn这个单词,知道它指土星。但是它还有另外一个意思,源于拉丁语Saturnus,是古罗马神话和宗教中的一位神,主要掌管农业,繁衍,财富,拥有极高的地位。重要到“星期六”的英语单词Saturday便是因其而来,“土星”也是根据它而命名。Saturnalia则是古罗马在每年12月祭祀这位“农神”的大型节日,这可能是古罗马最著名也最重要的节日了,一般在每年的12月17日至12月24日间召开。这个节日期间,人们最主要的活动和我们的春节一样,就是大吃大喝。除此之外,人们还会互赠礼物,畅所欲言,可以自行脑补豪放的古罗马人豪饮美酒,大快朵颐,大吹牛逼的景象,可能正是这种性格和想象的空间滋生了丰富的艺术和人文作品,成为整个人类文明的摇篮。

  Saturnalia这个节日还有一个重要之处,在于它被很多历史学家认为是圣诞节最早的起源。罗马帝国被基督化后,他们选择了同样作为异教徒节日的这一天作为庆祝基督诞生的生日。同样有人认为选择这一天是因为它的象征意义,“世界真正光明的诞生”和冬至时节同步,象征了愈来愈长的白昼。

  Saturnalia

  Saturnalian banquets were held from as far back as around 217 BCE. Thefestival was held to honor Saturn, the father of the gods and was characterized by the suspension (停止)of discipline and reversal (逆转) of the usual order.

  Grudges(争吵)and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. Masquerades(化装舞会)often occurred during this time.

  It was traditional to offer gifts of imitation fruit (a symbol of fertility 生育能力), dolls (symbolic of the customof human sacrifice), and candles (reminiscent回忆往事 of the bonfires traditionally associated with pagan异教徒 solstice celebrations). A mock king was chosen, usually from a group of slaves or criminals, and although he was permitted to behave in an unrestrained (不受限制的) manner for seven days of the festival, he was usually killed at the end.

  The Saturnalia eventually degenerated (堕落) into a week-long spree of debauchery(沉迷酒色) and crime – giving rise to the modern use of the term, saturnalia, meaning a period of unrestrained license and revelry (放纵).

  这些内容的英文表达方法你知道吗?

  冬至 winter solstice

  北半球 north hemisphere

  (大吃大喝的)盛宴 feast

  狂欢 orgy

  异教徒 pagan

  基督徒 Christian


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