Midwinter Revels – A Celebration of the Solstice
“Long before there was a Christmas, man celebrated at this time of the year upon noticing the return of the sun to higher elevations in the sky. Pagan rituals sprang up around this event, later to become tangled with Christian lore, which called for a celebration at a nearly identical date. Folk dances, songs, and plays often blended and blurred the pagan and Christian traditions. The result was a unique type of expression that was both wild and holy.”
-John Langstaff (Taken from the first Christmas Revels program note, 1971)
This year we are using the title “Midwinter Revels” to more accurately describe our seasonal celebration which, this year, will feature Irish, Mexican and Jewish cultures.
A Revels Christmas is unique. To more accurately describe the popular annual event, “The Christmas Revels” might have been written with a small “c .“ As imagined by its founder, Jack Langstaff, Christmas Revels was a hybrid communal celebration created from two powerful elements – the first being the oldest known and near-universal festival in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice, and the second, a festival that was a big deal in the Langstaff family – Christmas. The ensuing 50 years of joyful theatrical and musical events brought those two elements together creating a distinctive perennial event entitled: “The Christmas Revels – a celebration of the winter solstice.” Inevitably, audiences have shortened it to “The Christmas Revels.” That abbreviation has been handy, but over the years has influenced potential audiences, schools, and funders who may reasonably have perceived Revels as a faith-based organization. By contrast, the Christian narrative tangled with its pagan roots is told in Revels more as folktale than as dogma. Carols and rounds are sung with emphasis on the pleasure of community singing rather than as articles of faith, and the deep mysteries of life, death, and regeneration expressed in music, ritual, and drama are acknowledged as involving all of humanity irrespective of race, creed or religion.
At this half-century mark of Revels history, we are engaged, along with every other arts organization, in a period of introspection, learning, and change as we address issues of systemic racism, inequality, and unintended bias within our organizations. Although in the past we have invited and included performers and material of all faith backgrounds under the banner of The Christmas Revels, we are taking the opportunity this year to emphasize the inclusive nature of this unique Revels hybrid. We hope that you will join with us in joyfully widening our circle of friends and community.
Great joy to the new!