Tuesday, January 23, 2007

St Vincent's Day

January 22nd is St. Vincent's Day. St Vincent was a 4th century martyer from Spain and his holiday was part of the merger of Roman holiday's into Christian ones in the 4th century, meaning he had a holiday named after him almost right after being killed.

St Vincent is the Patron Saint of vinegrowers and winemakers. The holiday and feast is celebrated in all of the Catholic wine growing areas of Europe, especially in Burgundy. The day begins with a morning mass, and the winemakers bring a bottle to leave at the alter. There is then a long feast that starts in the early afternoon and goes on late into the night. Everyone is expected to bring fine bottles to share with the other grapegrowers and winemakers at these feasts.

Before St Constintine merged the Roman religions with Christianity in the 4th century, the holiday was celebrated as Paganalia. Pagans were people who lived in the country and worked the land. The celebration started after the fields had been prepared for planting and the vines pruned, usually by the 3rd week of January. There was a huge feast, and people from the city would come and bring gifts and goods to the country people and wait on them at the parties, a kind of reversal of normal roles. Masks and costumes would sometimes be worn, so that no one could tell who was rich or poor.

A few weeks later the party would be reversed and the country people would head to the cities to bring gifts and wait on the city people. There was also costume wearing and great parades and dances. This holiday was called Fornicalia.

Paganalia became St Vincent's day, and Fornicalia is now celebrated as Carnival or Mardi Gras around the world.

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