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Winter Solstice and Revels

When I attended college in the mid to late eighties, I dated a student several years older than I was. He was a nerd, and we were a bad fit, but I couldn’t see that at the time. He spent his weekends staying up all night to play role-playing games with others of his ilk. I didn’t understand it, but I respected it.

One Christmas, for his gift I purchased two tickets to a Thursday night performance of the Christmas Revels. It didn’t conflict with his gaming schedule, and his role-playing buddies were impressed.

Anyway, the Revels. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Revels were held at the Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The first Revels was in 1957 in New York City, but the performances became a tradition in Cambridge. Every December, for several weekends, you could see a celebration of different cultures and traditions relating to Christmas and the solstice. Some of the performers are professionals and some amateurs, but it’s more than a play. It’s a collection of music, acting, dance, recitals, and rituals. In spirit, it’s a little bit dinner theater and a little bit Medieval Faire. The costumes are festive, the skits are funny, and the audience is expected to participate. If you attend, at the end of the performance, you leave your seat, join the cast, and dance out the door.

It was joyous and exciting, with a sense of childlike wonder and boisterous good fun. Nerd and I had a great time. It was on that night I first heard Lord of the Dance. It’s part of the show, and we were expected to sing along to it. It stuck with me for years, and it wasn’t until later I discovered it was a hymn.

I’m calling this solstice entry, though Revels celebrated Christmas, too. Here’s a link to the song:


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