It’s the third and final week of Nail Polish Canada’s holiday nail art challenge, and the theme for the week is “Trim the Tree – Holiday Decorations”! My partner and I like to celebrate the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia at this time of year. Did you know that decorating trees and hanging wreaths and holly, along with a fair number of other modern-day Christmas traditions, originally came from Saturnalia celebrations?
Since yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah, I also “threw caution to the wind” and added a menorah to my holiday nail design. Well, both are festivals of light after all, although the ancient Romans and Jews were at war off and on between 66-136 CE and the Jews didn’t exactly come out on top in those conflicts… :/ Anyway, I hope you can all forgive this atheist’s multi-cultural multi-faith holiday mani.
I’m a bit late in posting this; I did the design and took the photos last night, and meant to post earlier today, so by now there should be another candle lit on my menorah!
The sun is a major symbol of Saturnalia, which was celebrated around the winter solstice (the dates and length of the celebration varied what with changes of the ancient calendar) when the days are the shortest in the northern hemisphere. Sun symbols were one of the main ornaments used to decorate trees, and so I wanted to have the sun figure prominently in my mani.
This web page compiles a few modern-day celebrants’ comments about Saturnalia, and I thought I’d post an excerpt that has to do with decorations:
“Many of the decorations involved greenery – swathes, garlands, wreaths, etc – being hung over doorways and windows, and ornamenting stairs. Ornaments in the trees included sun symbols, stars, and faces of the God Janus. Trees were not brought indoors (the Germans started that tradition), but decorated where they grew.
Food was also a primary decoration – gilded cakes in a variety of shapes were quite popular, and children and birds vied for the privilege of denuding the trees of their treats. The commonest shapes were fertility symbols, suns and moons and stars, baby shapes, and herd animal shapes (although, to be honest, it’s hard to tell if some of those ancient cookie cutters are supposed to be goats or deer). I would imagine coins were also a popular decoration/gift.”
“People were just as likely to be ornamented as the trees. Wearing greenery and jewelry of a sacred nature was apparently common, based on descriptions, drawings, and the like from the era. Although the emphasis was on Saturn, Sol Invictus got a fair share of the revelry as well.”
“Gold, because the sun is yellow, is always a sure choice for a good Saturnalia decoration. For modern Saturnalia, those golden glass ball ornaments are ideal, as are gold sun faces, gold stars, and gilded anythings. Gilding nuts and pine cones and nestling them among the swags and wreaths of greenery would be a lovely way of acknowledging the ancient roots of this ceremony.”
“Indoor trees are not ancient Roman, but if you have plants growing indoors, decorating them would certainly be in the spirit of the holidays. If you just have to have the now-traditional indoor tree, try decorating it in gold ornaments with a solar theme. Swathe it in bright red or purple ribbons (2 colors quite in favor with the Romans, and looks great with the gold ornaments). Top the tree with a sun, rather than a star, for after all, this is a solar celebration.”
Here are the items I used for this mani. The base polish is Zoya Indigo, a shimmery navy blue with very fine, sparse holo particles. The boughs of holly were made with Zoya Rina and Kleancolor Metallic Red. The menorah was drawn using the orange Orly striping polish, which is called Lovey Dovey. The sun, the candles, and accents on the holly were done using some metallic gel pens. The sun’s face was done using the silver gel pen but then traced over with a regular blue fine felt-tipped pen, since the silver didn’t contrast well enough against the yellow.
I had a lot of fun doing this three-week holiday challenge! Be sure to visit the week 3 nail art challenge page here and vote for your favourite holiday decorations mani! Voting is open through December 12th. And whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!