For me, no doubt like many others, today meant going back to work after the holiday period – though the comparative emptiness of the underground train made me wonder how many people are staying away until next Monday!
So this naturally made me think about festivals, and the various ones I have written into In a Milk and Honeyed Land. In historical terms we know only a little about what festivals actually were celebrated in Canaan, and still less about the details of the celebrations themselves.
We are pretty sure that there were spring and autumn feasts, and it is highly likely that there were also particular days used to honour one or other deity. We do have written records of similar events further east, in Mesopotamia, and it is likely that the various religious ceremonies recorded in the Hebrew Bible owe their timing at least in part to these earlier traditional festivals. The timing is logical given the agricultural base of the culture – seedtime and harvest, winter and summer are good times to look forward with anticipation or backward with gratitude.
In keeping with the general theme of the book, I have written these as low-key events – plenty of food, wine, singing and dancing for the townspeople to share with one another, a ritual sacrifice of a locally caught animal, and so on. They are community-scale events, repeated dozens of times across the area in individual towns and villages, rather than great assemblies or pilgrimages involving the region as a whole. I have assumed that, human nature being what it is, these were times when normal social conventions and constraints were loosened, resulting in a whole mixture of personal delights and indiscretions. Writing about these events, and seeking to imaginatively fill in the gaps in our knowledge, was a lot of fun!
Other news – In a Milk and Honeyed Land is now listed at the excellent book promotion site askdavid.com, a splendid resource for writers and readers. So here’s looking forward to a productive and satisfying year!