These are some gouache paintings I did before Christmas to explore the origins and traditions of the season.
St Nicholas arrives on the eve of the Feast of St Nicholas, 6th December, with his trusty donkey and his basket laden with delightful gifts for all good children. Naughty children better beware, otherwise they’ll get a visit from the bad anti-Santa character, Krampus instead. Who knows what evil punishments he’ll give out!
The Pagan Green Man sits on his Yule Log keeping warm against the Yule Fire during the long Winter Solstice. Traditionally, Yuletide lasted throughout the long winter months when it was impossible to farm the land due to short days and long nights. What else was there to do but have a long party? Hence, the 12 days of Christmas, commencing on 25th December and finishing on Twelfth Night, 5th January. Much feasting, drinking and merriment.
The Roman festival of Saturnalia, honouring the Roman God of Agriculture, Saturn, was probably an origin of the Christmas festivities that we know today. Lots of feasting, drinking, dancing, merriment and role reversal games. Originally just celebrated on one day, 17th December or thereabouts, Saturnalia developed into a week long festival. Again, a bit like today with our Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.