Digging down further on David Coffin's work I found that he has been a major performer in the Christmas Revels in Boston for many years. I had that written on our Christmas list this year as something we might want to do, bringing the two nearby granddaughters - and maybe their parents if they're good.
But it is changed to the Midwinter Solstice this year. I don't mind a lot of the paganism in Christian holidays, because we are not disembodied abstract beings and our celebrations have to be grounded in the physical, so there is no real escape: if you shoo away the pagan elements you will have to smuggle in some other metaphors instead, and you won't recognise what you have done. The Revels have had a fair bit of paganism in them for years. A bit irritating when it is showy in its witchery rather than accurately historical, but not the worst thing out there.
But the name change tells me that this was not enough for them, and those who requested to merely share the stage now want to control it. They have the whip hand now. Ah, Cambridge. Christian elements will linger for a long time, I am sure, because nostalgia will not be cheated, as I noted more than fifteen years ago - not for a few generations, anyway. Look at the costumes, for pity's sake. These were worn at no solstice celebrations ever until our own age, yet those they cannot abandon.
I am not going to the Revels after all.
The costumes seem to be for a festival of international time travelers.
Irish, Mexican, and Jewish this year. One of the three would have been alert to the Winter Solstice.
The costumes look like the Muppets Christmas Carol, now that you mention it.
The solstice isn't an obvious thing for new-age-moderns to celebrate; they're probably only latching onto it because it's a non-Christian reason for a festival at this particular time of year. If you live your life inside under artificial lights, in houses or office buildings that are heated in winter and cooled in summer, the passing of the seasons is not of nearly so much interest. If you no longer even commute to work, so you don't have to step out into the cold and dark even to get to the office from the house, less interest still. If your food including your favorite produce is year-round available at the grocery store, even less interest.
The rhythm of the seasons matters a lot to those who live close by them, and whose food and death may be governed by them being mild or harsh. One can understand taking a religious interest in such things. This is just an excuse to hold a party without participating in anything icky like faith.
On that score, even Boston, a northern city in the US, has days two hours longer on the Solstice than say, Edinburgh. And we are also, as you note, in a time of electric lights. Light was hard to come by not so many centuries ago. William Manchester's evocative title A World Lit Only By Fire was about Medieval times, not the Dark Ages.
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