“Feasting in excess”: a fingerprint phrase in quotations of Gregory Nazianzen on the Nativity

Roger Pearse | 12/10/2019 | Staff
Click For Photo: https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/cropped-4219138-blue-sky-blue-water-Copy.jpg

I came across this (rather useless) page, which contained the curious claim:

In 389AD, St Gregory Nazianzen, one of the four fathers of the Greek Church criticized customs of ‘feasting in excess” and “dancing” at Christmas. This criticism arose because these festive excesses were hangovers from the pagan midwinter festivals like Saturnalia when celebrants suspended normal life and pleasure ruled.

Sentence - Opinion - Writer - Christmas - Reference

The second sentence is the opinion of the writer, who is trying to tie Christmas to paganism somehow. But what is the reference to Gregory?

If we search for ‘”feasting in excess” “dancing” Gregory Nazianzus’ in Google we get a longer phrase, “feasting to excess, dancing, and crowning the doors” – note the change from “in” to “to” – from the Daily Telegraph and the Times Literary Supplement in 2016. The latter is reviewing (mainly) Mark Forsyth, A Christmas cornucopia : the hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions, also 2016, and quoting from it. This in turn seems to derive from Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun, 2001, which uses the exact same words, and gives a reference to “Golby and Purdue, Modern Christmas“. But we can jump back to 1902, with W.F.Dawson, Christmas: Its Origin and Associations, whose quote is longer still:

Doors - Practices - Heathens - Celebration - Festival

against feasting to excess, dancing, and crowning the doors (practices derived from the heathens); urging the celebration of the festival after an heavenly and not an earthly manner.

In turn we find William Sandys in 1833 (Christmas Carols, ancient & modern, p.xiii) exactly the same words, but not in quotes, but as Sandys’ own words. It is delightful to find, popping up here, the practice of turning indirect speech into direct speech, so common in bogus quotations.

Quotation - Length - Works - Bishop - Hall

Further back yet, in 1808, we find a quotation at some length in the works of Bishop Hall, although not containing the “excess” bit:

Amongst the rest,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Roger Pearse
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Sign In or Register to comment.

Welcome to Long Room!

Where The World Finds Its News!