Daily Archives: December 29, 2017

Surely You Jest

The Feast of Fools

On this Fourth Day of Christmas, the normal order of things is ceremoniously reversed. It is the Feast of Fools. There are many who would say that this is the normal order of things lately, and I’d have a hard time disagreeing with them. But hopefully your home is in a better state than the world at large, and for today’s Feast of Fools, you might put the children in charge of things. Let them decide what the day’s activities are, let them decide what’s for dinner. Allow yourself to be a little foolish for the day. There’s no harm in that.

The Feast of Fools traditions descend directly from the Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia that informs most of our Christmas traditions. They come out of chaos and entropy: the chaos of the old year dying, unraveling at the seams. A new year is about to be born. As the year goes, so have gone other things through this Yuletide: the sun must die at the solstice to rise again, the son born at Christmas must die to rise again at Easter. The story is an ancient one, told over and over again, in many guises. The story never grows old, and it is the story even of our Convivio Book of Days: it is the wheel of the year, turning always, renewing always. The times and players change and yet the story is essentially the same. It is, to me, both comforting and perplexing. And if today it helps us all to laugh at our ways, all the better.

Image: “The Laughing Jester” by an anonymous painter, c. 15th century, Netherlands. Located at the Art Museum of Stockholm [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. At the Feast of Fools in olden times, the jester would rule the Court and could speak truths without¬†repercussion, truths that no one else would dare say out loud.