The Feasts’ are upon us. We’ve moved into the portion of the year where preparations are made, food is consumed, memories are created (for better or worse) and gifts exchanged--a time some people dread and others rejoice for. This season, culturally, we are encouraged to look outside of ourselves, to recognize the needs of others, to love and cherish the relationships we have, as well as to open our eyes to the people in our lives that we often don’t even realize are there. The arts sprinkle in reminders to be thankful, grateful at every turn. These notions are echoed through the arts and summon us through literature, poetry, music, theater, film, art, religion and even the crafts. From the Smashing Pumpkins to Paul Auster, creators are inspired to create in reflection of The Feasts’ of late fall and early winter.
Christmas was not celebrated until the Victorian Era. The festivities we know today were largely introduced by Queen Victoria in England. The Victorian Age (in Britain) and the Gilded Age (in American) were marked by peace, relative wealth, and a rapid escalation in living conditions, as well as growth in population. The Industrial Age brought a living wage never known to such a large part of the population and in return people were marrying younger, living longer and reproducing like never before. Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert of Germany, introduced a new morality, with a vision of romance. An image painted in the newspaper of the royal couple inspired the decorating of pine trees, gift giving and even the exchange of cards at Christmas time. These new practices were widely received and exuberantly celebrated.
When the Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol” was published, it shocked and opened the eyes of a population to the many people still suffering under child labor, poverty and harsh working conditions. Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women also shed light on those in need and the beauty of sharing life with those hidden in the shadows. Countless poets, musicians, painters and writers have all been inspired by this time of year, and whether they write of the despair that is exposed by the Feasting holidays or the hope they find as the winter sets in, we remember that we are all in need, we all have something to give and we all have a unique creativity inside of us to share with the world.
Photo credit: Still Life with Golden Goblet, Pieter de Ring, 1640 - 1660