Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Winter Solstice - Tuesday 21st June 2016

... and the Summer one if you're reading this in the Northern Hemisphere (well done, incidentally, for having warm weather... you bastards...).

I went out for another of our pagan festivals on Saturday; my therapy session of a long lunch with friends on a Saturday near the winter solstice.

This year it was at the Railway Club Hotel (two thumbs up, incidentally), and I felt compelled to make a speech to mark the significance of the event, though really only said "thanks for coming to this, because I suffer seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and need something to look forward to, and didn't those pagans have it right with their Yuletide celebrations?"

I had, however, prepared a rather longer historico-research piece about the winter solstice and pagan rituals, and for those interested, you might like to see the full text here.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments; 
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings, 
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

(Shakespeare's Richard III - Act 1, Scene 1).

We’re at the halfway stage of the football season – the split round (and the Community Cup is on next week). The Winter solstice –the longest night and shortest day of the year – is actually on Tuesday this year. It coincides with a full moon, so the longest night will be at the very least well lit… if full of werewolves… because of the full moon.

So why do people on the other side of the world celebrate Christmas at the winter solstice over there (around the 25th December), and what are the pagan festivals that went before? In the enlightened age we live in, I asked Dr Google, and thought I’d share some of what I found out with a couple of clicks.

Winter festivals—especially those centered on the winter solstice—were the most popular of the year in many European pagan cultures. Less agricultural work needed to be done during winter, and they threw in an expectation of better weather as spring approached.

The Egyptian deity Horus, son to goddess Isis, was celebrated at the winter solstice. Horus was often depicted being fed by his mother, which also influenced the symbolism of the Virgin Mary with baby Christ.

The Romans had a festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, meaning "the birthday of the Unconquered Sun", a festival started by the Roman emperor Aurelian (270–275) to celebrate the sun god and winter solstice. During the reign of the Christian emperor Constantine (306-337), Christians assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the "sun of righteousness".
Customs included gift-giving and merrymaking from the Roman Saturnalia, greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year.

Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January. The vikings celebrated to the honour of their gods over three days, eating and drinking with friends and by-passers, called to drink Yule. After the Christianisation of Scandinavia the celebration was allowed as long as it was in the name of Christ instead.

They burnt Yule logs and had a number of now traditional Christmas foods at Germanic feasts. And lets not forget the tannenbaum; the green fir tree, a sign of constancy through all seasons, and symbollically lit up to guide children home through the dark night.

In eastern Europe, old pagan traditions incorporated into Christmas celebrations included the Koleda, which was incorporated into the Christmas carol (i.e. going outside and singing door to door). In celebrating the Koleda, the ancient god of the underworld Veles was known to regularly send spirits of the dead into the living world as his heralds. Festivals in his honour were held near the end of the year, in Winter, when time was coming to the very end of world order, chaos was growing stronger, the borders between worlds of the living and dead were fading, and ancestral spirits would return among the living. This ancient celebration of Velja noć (Great Night) still persists in folk customs of Koleda. In pre-Christian Croatia, "koleda" was a celebration of death and rebirth at the end of December in honour of the sun and god - Dažbog, whose power once more begins to increase in those days.

So, what’s my point? It’s this. If anyone in Australia asks you to celebrate “Christmas in July”, tell them to get stuffed. They’re running a month late. No, we need to have some kind of landmark event for the solstice, and this is ours. A pagan festival for Melbournians in mid-winter. Gentlemen, well done.

As a last cautionary note, I should let you know that suicide rates go up after Christmas in Europe and the US, so please, don’t kill yourself once this lunch is over, just because it’s dark and you feel like you’ve got nothing to look forward to. I want you to know that after this, in three to four weeks from now, the daylight hours lengthen in an accelerated manner. There is light at the end of the tunnel, literally and figuratively.

So eat drink and be merry. The only way is up! Friends, a toast. To the Unconquered Sun. To summer and her return!!


Many thanks to those who came.
Michael Archibald
Daniel Butler
Adam Downie
Richard Downie
Kit Fennessy
John Ford
Ben Marsland
Jerome Rush
Terry McCarthy
Dan Malone
Lachlan Milne
Matt Nees
Jeff Williams

We also had some apologies from around the world!

Bernie Fagan
Hi Kit thanks for the invite!! Unfortunately I can't go again as I'm living in Mallorca Spain now. I agree with the "festivus for all of us " slogan but maybe you should skip the "airing of grievances " part and the "rumbling ". Have a great day and God help anyone who orders fish.........

Tom Reynolds
I'm a late scratching as I've gone to Japan with my cycling team who've got a late entry to a race.

Cambodia – Current Location Unknown
Owen Mahoney
Sorry Kit won't make solstice lunch. will be on a plane back from SE Asian holiday.

Glenn Carpenter: How i wish...... Mail me a doggy bag
Kit Fennessy: Yes, well Killer will be there. I'll propose a toast to absent Carpsy's...
Glenn Carpenter: Kit Fennessy i think that is appropriate

If you would like to come to the next one, look out for my Facebook event invitation in the new year, or drop me a line so I remember to give you the details!  Or if you'd like, why don't you just set up your own?  It doesn't have to involve meat, alcohol, or restaurants.  Just light a log and... well, it probably does have to involve drinking, but catch up with your friends, anyway.

Have a great solstice everyone!!