Sources for article on Christmas and Brumalia:This post will be modified as research continues.
De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis by John Raymond Crawford
Byzantinischer Zeitschrift 23.3-4 (pages 365-396).
De Bruma et Brumalibus Festis by John Raymond Crawford
Review by: Horace Wetherill Wright
The Classical Weekly , Vol. 15, No. 7 (Nov. 28, 1921), pp. 52-54
Published by: Classical Association of the Atlantic States
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4388236
Text of the review entered and published at:
A review of Crawford on the Bruma and Brumalia Posted on December 19th, 2009 by Roger Pearse
Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and the birth of the Sun Posted on December 19, 2010 Chronicon.net TC Schmidt [Internet Archive link]
-citing Macrobius Saturnalia 1.21.12-18 [early 5th century A.D.]
Roger Pearse's work:
On “bruma” and “brumalia” in ancient Rome, as found in the OLD
Choricius of Gaza, the Suda on the “brumalia”
More on Choricius of Gaza
More sources for the meaning of “bruma”; winter solstice? midwinter? etc
Too much data to find out what “bruma” means
A translation of John the Lydian, “De Mensibus” 4.158 (on December)
John the Lydian: December
From Bill Thayer on Roger Pearse's website
Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, s.v. Idolatry, mentions the council in Trullo’s excommunication of those who keep the Brumalia; not noteworthy except that it’s in a pretty long passage on similar festivities, and includes a few citations; and on p358 in its long article on Christmas, the Dictionary mentions a canon of a council of Rome of the year 743, “Ut nullus Kalendas Januarias et broma (= brumalia) colere praesumpserit (can. 9, Labbé vi.1548), and quotes the Council in Trullo, “τὰς οὕτω λεγομένας Καλάνδας καὶ τὰ καλούμενα Βρουμάλια” (can. 66, Labbé vi.1170).
Authors From Late Antiquity
----. De die Natali (The birthday book) 21: [written in A.D. 238]
 Initia autem istorum annorum propterea notavi, ne quis eos aut ex kal. Januariis aut ex aliquo tempore simul putaret incipere, cum in iis conditorum voluntates non minus diversae sint, quam opiniones philosophorum: idcirco aliis a novo sole, id est a bruma, aliis ab aestivo solstitio, plerisque ab aequinoctio verno, partim ab autumnali aequinoctio, quibusdam ab ortu vergiliarum, nonnullis ab earum occasu, multis a canis exortu incipere annus naturalis videtur. (from here)I have indicated at what epoch these years commence, so that nobody should suppose they always dated from the calends of January, or from any other like day; because on the question of aeras, one does not find less diversity among the statements of their founders than amongst the opinions of the philosophers. Some make the natural year commence at the Birth of the Sun, that is to say, at Brumalia, and others at the Summer Solstice; some make it the Vernal Equinox, and others the Autumnal Equinox; some at the rising and some at the setting of the Pleiades, while still others fix it at the rising of the Canicular star. (from here).
Tertullian of Carthage (c. 155 – c. 240 AD)
De Idolatria (On Idolatry)
X.  Quaerendum autem est etiam de ludimagistris, sed et ceteris professoribus litterarum. Immo non dubitandum affines illos esse multimodae idololatriae. Primum quibus necesse est deos nationum praedicare, nomina, genealogias, fabulas, ornamenta honorifica quaeque eorum enuntiare, tum sollemnia festaque eorundem obseruare, ut quibus uectigalia sua supputent.  Quis ludimagister sine tabula VII idolorum Quinquatria tamen frequentabit ? Ipsam primam noui discipuli stipem Mineruae et honori et nomini consecrat, ut, etsi non profanatus alicui idolo uerbotenus de idolothyto esse dicatur, pro idololatra uitetur. Quid ? Minus est inquinamenti ? Eoque praestat quaestus et nominibus et honoribus idolo nuncupatus ?  Quam Minerualia Mineruae, quam Saturnalia Saturni, quae etiam seruiculis sub tempore Saturnalium celebrari necesse est. Etiam strenuae captandae et septimontium, et Brumae et carae cognationis honoraria exigenda omnia, Florae scholae coronandae ; flaminicae et aediles sacrificant creati; schola honoratur feriis.  Idem fit idoli natali; omnis diaboli pompa frequentatur. Quis haec competere Christiano existimabit, nisi qui putabit conuenire etiam non magistro ? Scimus dici posse : si docere litteras dei seruis non licet, etiam nec discere licebit, et, quomodo quis institueretur ad prudentiam interim humanam uel ad quemcumque sensum uel actum, cum instrumentum sit ad omnem uitam litteratura ? Quomodo repudiamus saecularia studia, sine quibus diuina non possunt ?  Videamus igitur necessitatem litteratoriae eruditionis, respiciamus ex parte eam admitti [non] posse, ex parte uitari. Fideles magis discere quam docere litteras capit; diuersa est enim ratio discendi et docendi. Si fidelis litteras doceat, insertas idolorum praedicationes sine dubio, dum docet, commendat, dum tradit, affirmat, dum commemorat, testimonium dicit.  Deos ipsos hoc nomine obsignat, cum lex prohibeat, ut diximus, deos pronuntiari et nomen hoc in uano conlocari. Hinc prima diabolo fides aedificatur ab initiis eruditionis. Quaere, an idololatrian committat qui de idolis catechizat. At cum fidelis haec discit, si iam sapit, quid sit, neque recipit neque admittit, multo magis, si dudum sapit. Aut ubi coeperit sapere, prius sapiat oportet quod prius didicit, id est de deo et fide. Proinde illa respuet nec recipiet et erit tam tutus, quam qui sciens uenenum ab ignaro accipit nec bibit.  Huic necessitas ad excusationem deputatur, quia aliter discere non potest. Tanto autem facilius est litteras non docere quam non discere, quanto et reliqua scholarum de publicis ac propriis sollemnitatibus inquinamenta facilius discipulis fidelis non adibit quam magister non frequentabit.
Chapter X.-Of Schoolmasters and Their Difficulties.
Moreover, we must inquire likewise touching schoolmasters; nor only of them, but also all other professors of literature. Nay, on the contrary, we must not doubt that they are in affinity with manifold idolatry: first, in that it is necessary for them to preach the gods of the nations, to express their names, genealogies, honourable distinctions, all and singular; and further, to observe the solemnities and festivals of the same, as of them by whose means they compute their revenues. What schoolmaster, without a table of the seven idols, will yet frequent the Quinquatria? The very first payment of every pupil he consecrates both to the honour and to the name of Minerva; so that, even though he be not said "to eat of that which is sacrificed to idols" nominally (not being dedicated to any particular idol), he is shunned as an idolater. What less of defilement does he recur on that ground, than a business brings which, both nominally and virtually, is consecrated publicly to an idol? The Minervalia are as much Minerva's, as the Saturnalia Saturn's; Saturn's, which must necessarily be celebrated even by little slaves at the time of the Saturnalia. New-year's gifts likewise must be caught at, and the Septimontium kept; and all the presents of Midwinter and the feast of Dear Kinsmanship must be exacted; the schools must be wreathed with flowers; the flamens' wives and the ædiles sacrifice; the school is honoured on the appointed holy-days. The same thing takes place on an idol's birthday; every pomp of the devil is frequented. Who will think that these things are befitting to a Christian master, unless it be he who shall think them suitable likewise to one who is not a master? We know it may be said, "If teaching literature is not lawful to God's servants, neither will learning be likewise; "and, "How could one be trained unto ordinary human intelligence, or unto any sense or action whatever, since literature is the means of training for all life? How do we repudiate secular studies, without which divine studies cannot be pursued? "Let us see, then, the necessity of literary erudition; let us reflect that partly it cannot be admitted, partly cannot be avoided. Learning literature is allowable for believers, rather than teaching; for the principle of learning and of teaching is different. If a believer teach literature, while he is teaching doubtless he commends, while he delivers he affirms, while he recalls he bears testimony to, the praises of idols interspersed therein. He seals the gods themselves with this name; whereas the Law, as we have said, prohibits "the names of gods to be pronounced," this name to be conferred on vanity. Hence the devil gets men's early faith built up from the beginnings of their erudition. Inquire whether he who catechizes about idols commit idolatry. But when a believer learns these things, if he is already capable of understanding what idolatry is, he neither receives nor allows them; much more if he is not yet capable. Or, when he begins to understand, it behoves him first to understand what he has previously learned, that is, touching God and the faith. Therefore he will reject those things, and will not receive them; and will be as safe as one who from one who knows it not, knowingly accepts poison, but does not drink it. To him necessity is attributed as an excuse, because he has no other way to learn. Moreover, the not teaching literature is as much easier than the not learning, as it is easier, too, for the pupil not to attend, than for the master not to frequent, the rest of the defilements incident to the schools from public and scholastic solemnities.
XIV. Sed enim plerique iam induxerunt animo ignoscendum esse, si quando, quae ethnici, faciunt, ne nomen blasphemetur. Porro blasphemia, quae nobis omni modo deuitanda est, haec opinor est, si qui nostrum ad iustam blasphemiam ethnicum deducat aut fraude aut iniuria aut contumelia aliaue materia dignae querelae, in qua nomen merito percutitur, ut merito irascatur et dominus.  Ceterum si de omni blasphemia dictum est, uestra causa nomen meum blasphematur, perimus uniuersi, cum totus circus scelestis suffragiis nullo merito nomen lacessit. Desinamus, et non blasphemabitur. Immo blasphemetur, dum sumus in obseruatione, non in exorbitatione disciplinae, dum probamur, non dum reprobamur.  O blasphemiam martyrii adfinem, quae tunc me testatur Christianum, cum propterea me detestatur ! Benedictio est nominis maledictio custoditae disciplinae. Si hominibus, inquit, uellem placere, seruus Christi non essem. Sed idem alibi iubet, omnibus placere curemus. Quemadmodum ego, inquit, omnibus per omnia placeo.  Nimirum Saturnalia et Kalendas Ianuarias celebrans hominibus placebat ? An modestia et patientia ? An grauitate, an humanitate, an integritate ? Proinde cum dicit, omnibus omnia factus sum, ut omnes lucrifaciam: numquid idololatris idololatres ? Numquid ethnicis ethnicus ? Numquid saecularibus saecularis ?  Sed etsi non prohibet nos conuersari cum idololatris et adulteris et ceteris criminosis dicens, ceterum de mundo exiretis, non utique eas habenas conuersationis inmittit, ut, quoniam necesse est et conuiuere nos et commisceri cum peccatoribus, idem et compeccare possimus. Vbi est commercium uitae, quod apostolus concedit, ibi ** peccare, quod nemo permittit. Licet conuiuere cum ethnicis, commori non licet. Conuiuamus cum omnibus; conlaetemur ex communione naturae, non superstitionis. Pares anima sumus, non disciplina, compossessores mundi, non erroris.  Quod si nobis nullum ius est communionis in huiusmodi cum extraneis, quanto scelestius est haec inter fratres frequentare. Quis hoc sustinere aut defendere potest ? Iudaeis dies suos festos exprobrat spiritus sanctus. Sabbata, inquit, uestra et numenias et ceremonias odit anima mea. Nobis, quibus sabbata extranea sunt et numeniae et feriae a deo aliquando dilectae, Saturnalia et Ianuariae et Brumae et Matronales frequentantur, munera commeant et strenae, consonant lusus, conuiuia constrepunt.  O melior fides nationum in suam sectam, quae nullam sollemnitatem Christianorum sibi uindicat ! Non dominicum diem, non pentecosten, etiamsi nossent, nobiscum communicassent ; timerent enim, ne Christiani uiderentur. Nos ne ethnici pronuntiemur, non ueremur. Si quid et carni indulgendum est, habes, non dicam tuos dies tantum, sed et plures. Nam ethnicis semel annuus dies quisque festus est, tibi octauo quoque die. Excerpe singulas sollemnitates nationum et in ordinem exsere : pentecosten implere non poterunt.
Chapter XIV.-Of Blasphemy.
One of St. Paul's Sayings. But, however, the majority (of Christians) have by this time induced the belief in their mind that it is pardonable if at any time they do what the heathen do, for fear "the Name be blasphemed." Now the blasphemy which must quite be shunned by us in every way is, I take it, this: If any of us lead a heathen into blasphemy with good cause, either by fraud, or by injury, or by contumely, or any other matter of worthy complaint, in which "the Name" is deservedly impugned, so that the Lord, too, be deservedly angry. Else, if of all blasphemy it has been said, "By your means My Name is blasphemed," we all perish at once; since the whole circus, with no desert of ours, assails "the Name" with wicked suffrages. Let us cease (to be Christians) and it will not be blasphemed! On the contrary, while we are, let it be blasphemed: in the observance, not the overstepping, of discipline; while we are being approved, not while we are being reprobated. Oh blasphemy, bordering on martyrdom, which now attests me to be a Christian, while for that very account it detests me! The cursing of well-maintained Discipline is a blessing of the Name. "If," says he, "I wished to please men, I should not be Christ's servant." But the same apostle elsewhere bids us take care to please all: "As I," he says, "please all by all means." No doubt he used to please them by celebrating the Saturnalia and New-year's day! [Was it so] or was it by moderation and patience? by gravity, by kindness, by integrity? In like manner, when he is saying, "I have become all things to all, that I may gain all," does he mean "to idolaters an idolater? ""to heathens a heathen? ""to the worldly worldly? "But albeit he does not prohibit us from having our conversation with idolaters and adulterers, and the other criminals, saying, "Otherwise ye would go out from the world," of course he does not so slacken those reins of conversation that, since it is necessary for us both to live and to mingle with sinners, we may be able to sin with them too. Where there is the intercourse of life, which the apostle concedes, there is sinning, which no one permits. To live with heathens is lawful, to die with them is not. Let us live with all; let us be glad with them, out of community of nature, not of superstition. We are peers in soul, not in discipline; fellow-possessors of the world, not of error. But if we have no right of communion in matters of this kind with strangers, how far more wicked to celebrate them among brethren! Who can maintain or defend this? The Holy Spirit upbraids the Jews with their holy-days. "Your Sabbaths, and new moons, and ceremonies," says He, "My soul hateth." By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the Saturnalia and New-year's and Midwinter's festivals and Matronalia are frequented-presents come and go-New-year's gifts-games join their noise-banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lord's day, not Pentecost, even it they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: you have a festive day every eighth day. Call out the individual solemnities of the nations, and set them out into a row, they will not be able to make up a Pentecost.
John Malalas (c. 491 – 578)a Monophysite from Constantinople,
Chronicle 7.7 "gives an account of the origins of the festival. This tells us it was in the winter, and instituted by Romulus (or “Romus” as Malalas calls him)."
Because of this Romus devised what is known as the Brumalia, declaring, it is said, that the emperor of the time must entertain his entire senate and officials and all who serve in the palace, since they are persons of consequence, during the winter when there is a respite from righting. He began by inviting and entertaining first those whose names began with alpha, and so on, right to the last letter; he ordered his senate to entertain in the same way. They too entertained the whole army, and those they wanted. . . . This custom of the Brumalia has persisted in the Roman state to the present day. — [The Chronicle of John Malalas, trans. E. Jeffreys et al. (Byzantina Australiensia 4, Melbourne, 1986), p. 95]
John the LydianA 6th century Byzantine administrator and antiquarian wrote in book IV of his De Mensibus “On the Months” December par 158. It’s relevant to our discussions of bruma. This translation is public domain – do whatever you like with it, commercial or educational.
The Romans customarily divided their citizenry into three [groups] and distinguished those who were suitable for arms, those [who were suitable] for farming, and those [who were suitable] for hunting; and the season of winter brings an end to these [pursuits]. For in it, neither do they arm themselves, nor do they practice farming, because of the season’s cold and the shortness of the days—and hence in the old days they named it bruma, meaning “short day.” And Brumalia means “winter festivals”; so at that time, until the Waxing of the Light, ceasing from work, the Romans would greet each other with words of good omen at night, saying in their ancestral tongue, “Vives annos“—that is, “Live for years.”And the farming people would slaughter pigs for the worship of Cronus and Demeter—and hence even now the “Pig-Slaughter” is observed in December. And the vine-dressers would sacrifice goats in honor of Dionysus—for the goat is an enemy of the vine; and they would skin them, fill the skin-bags with air and jump on them. And the civic officials would also [offer as] the firstfruits of the collected harvest wine and olive oil, grain and honey and as many [products] of trees as endure and are preserved—they would make loaves without water and they would bring [all] these things to the priests of the [Great] Mother. And this sort of custom is still observed even now; and in November and December, until the “Waxing of the Light,” they bring [these] things to the priests. For the [custom] of greeting [people] by name at the Brumalia is rather recent; and, the truth [is], they call them “Cronian festivals”—and because of this the Church turns away from them. And they take place at night, because Cronus is in darkness, having been sent to Tartarus by Zeus—and they mysteriously signify the grain, from its being sown in the ground and thereafter not being seen. And this is quite true, as has been said: The attention to [these] things goes on at night, such that finally, in truth, the Brumalia are festivals of the subterranean daemones.Notes Gk. Βρουμάλια δὲ οἱονεὶ χειμεριναὶ ἑορταί; alternatively, “…[function] as winter festivals,” but οἱονεί introduces the significance of a term just before, with bruma.
 Gk. τὰ Αὐξιφωτία, presumably referring to 25 Dec., as (e.g.) in the “Calendar of Antiochus” the date is marked: ἡλίου γενέθλιον· αὔξει φῶς. For the phrase, cf. also Cosmas of Jerusalem, Comm. in S. Greg. Naz. carm. [PG 38:464].
 Lit., “you will live for years.”
 I.e., Saturn and Ops, who were considered husband and wife, and whose festivals were associated at this time of year; some further considered them the equivalents of Heaven and Earth (Macrobius, Sat. 1.10).
 Cf. askoliasmos / Askolia, the name for such an “event” at the Rural Dionysia.
 I.e., the Magna Mater (Cybele) (?).
 Gk. τὸ…ἀληθέστερον; lit., “the truer [thing]” / “the quite true [thing].”
 I.e., Saturnian festivals (Saturnalia).
 Gk. ἀποτρέπεται; alternatively, “turns [people] away from them.”
 Gk. αἰνίττονται.