Milk and Sugar
As you gather your gifts and ponder 1001 ways with turkey and ham, mothers in Iran clear up the winter solstice party called 'the birthday of the sun'. And when they stop for tea and sohan, they're busting to tell you that ALL your wild wild west Christmas customs are so very indebted to theirs. How so?
Well, from as long ago as 5000 BC the Persian cult of Mithra the sun god spread out over the centuries to make Mithraism the religion of choice for European continental folk, so that in 274 AD Roman Emperor Aurelia declared 25 December the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. So great was the pull of Mithraism that in 376 AD savvy Pope Leo proclaimed 25 December as Christ's birthday too. Eastern Orthodox Churches still celebrate Christmas on 7 January - the date the rest of us call the Epiphany, ‘Feast of Three Kings’, to celebrate Christ's manifestation to the Gentiles. Which Gentiles? The Magi, of course. A priestly astrological crew of wise men in ancient Persia who sighted a new bright star in the sky, predicted the birth of the Jewish Messiah, and set off from the religious city of Qum to Jerusalem to greet the infant Christ (with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh from Oman, by the way). But wait, there’s more! Ancient Persians were most fond of decorating a tall straight evergreen tree – a Rocket Juniper or cypress - symbol of endurance and aspiration towards Heaven, wrapping their ‘wishes’ in little colorful silk cloth parcels and hanging them on the branches for Mithra to consider. Mid-16th century German reformer Luther got wind of all this, and soon became widely credited with introducing the Christmas tree custom to the Germans (who very sensibly substitute the not-so-common cypress for a variety of pine that’s abundant in Europe). Now of course YOU know that ALL ancient beliefs ALL OVER THE WORLD come out of natural phenomena and that new suns, evergreen trees, wishing cloth parcels, and feasting are as common as . . . pine trees. But what’s TRULY UNCOMMON is the constant surprises and treats you’ll get on my Inside Persia Tour of Iran 2 – 16 April 2017 when the antecedents of SO MUCH you’ve always taken for granted quite simply yet dramatically jump out at you at every turn. Yes, by Mithra, it’s tremendously tasty stuff. And that's why this boutique tour scheduled for Easter holidays is UBER teacher-friendly. Spread the word and tell your friends - teacherly or otherwise.
Places in this ultra-delicious, super luxurious, artistically, philosophically, intellectually provoking tour are filling FAST.
Oh, and what of milk and sugar?
Well, that's become my favourite fabric du jour.
From the Persian 'shir o sukkar'.
That cotton cloth in stripes of smooth (like milk) and rough (like sugar) designed to keep you cool.
Those Persians keep popping up everywhere!