Brumalia (Latin: Brumalia, [bruːˈmaːlɪ.a], "winter festivals") was an ancient Roman, winter solstice festival honouring Saturn/Cronus and Ceres/Demeter, and Bacchus in some cases. By the Byzantine era, celebrations commenced on 24 November and lasted for a month, until Saturnalia and the "Waxing of the Light". The festival included night-time feasting, drinking, and merriment. During this time, prophetic indications were taken as prospects for the remainder of the winter. Despite the 6th century emperor Justinian's official repression of paganism, the holiday was celebrated at least until the 11th century in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, as recorded by Christopher of Mytilene. No references exist after the 1204 sacking of the capital by the Fourth Crusade.
The name of Brumalia comes from brvma, [ˈbruːma], "Winter solstice", "Winter cold"; a shortening of *brevima, [ˈbrɛwɪma], presumed obsolete superlative form of brevis, later brevissima ("smallest", "shallowest", "briefest").
Roman life, during classical antiquity, centred on the military, agriculture, and hunting. The short, cold days of winter would halt most forms of work. Brumalia was a festival celebrated during this dark, interludal period. It was chthonic in character and associated with crops, of which seeds are sown in the ground before sprouting.
Farmers would sacrifice pigs to Saturn and Ceres. Vine-growers would sacrifice goats in honor of Bacchus—for the goat is an enemy of the vine; and they would skin them, fill the skin-bags with air and jump on them. Civic officials would bring offerings of firstfruits (including wine, olive oil, grain, and honey) to the priests of Ceres.
Although Brumalia was still celebrated as late as the 6th century, it was uncommon and celebrants were ostracised by the Christian church. However, some practices did persist as November and December time customs.
In later times, Romans would greet each other with words of blessing at night, "Vives annos", "Live for years".
- Crawford, John Raymond (1914). De Bruma et Brumalibus festis. Harvard University Press.
- Mazza, Robert (February 2011). "Choricius of Gaza, Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian". In Digeser, Elizabeth DePalma; Frakes, Robert M.; Stephens, Justin (eds.). The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the Early Islamic World. London/New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781848854093.
- Gill, N. S. "Brumalia". About.com. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- John the Lydian (December 2009). "A translation of John the Lydian, "De Mensibus" 4.158". Roger Pearse: Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, putting things online, freedom of speech, information access, and more. Trans. Pearse, Roger. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
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