HOW TO PLAN A FESTIVE
ANTINOUS BIRTHDAY PARTY
ANTINOUS was born on November 27 and worshipers around the world are busy planning their own festivities -- from Chile to Canada and from New England in the US to New South Wales in Australia.
November marks the start of the ancient pagan Festive Season, a season which is still full of fabulous party dates -- including Christmas, New Year's Eve, Twelfth Night and of course American Thanksgiving. Dia de los Muertos and Halloween/Samhain usher in this Festive Season of twinkly lights and over-eating and drinking way too much.
The images on this page are all courtesy of the gifted artist FELIX D'EON and serve as an inspiration for Antinous Birthday festivities.
These ancient festivities go back WAAAAY before Christianity, of course. So it's a safe bet that Hadrian and Antinous would recognize many of the features of these festivities
So when you plan your Antinous Birthday Party, you can mix-and-match customs from all sorts of pagan Festive Season holidays, in full knowledge that Hadrian and Antinous would nod in approval.
It should be celebrated with feasting and drinking and singing and carousing. Green boughs (palm fronds, holly, pine boughs or whatever is native to your climate) should decorate the feast room in honour of the forests of Bithynia, the highlands of modern-day Turkey where Antinous was born.
Electric lights should be turned off in favor of candlelight or at the very least those strings of tiny "fairy lights" which Moslems use during Ramadan and Hindus during Divali and Christians at Christmas.
The one really bright spot in the room should be a bust or image of Antinous, which is spotlighted, signifying our belief that Antinous brings light into the world.
The Antinous Rosy Lotus would be perfect. But since not everyone has access to lotus blossoms in late November, orchids would also be fine. Bithynia was well known evenin Ancient Times for its forest orchids and the Romans loved orchids -- even orchid root beverages!
Orchids would be lovely as well as being a Hellenistic conversation piece. If they are too pricey, then your favorite seasonal flower will do. Look around and find something that is beautiful and unique to your own locale which you think would be very nice.
The Birthday of Antinous would be a wonderful opportunity for a costume party, also in keeping with the Halloween/Carnaval/Christmas flavor of these ancient pagan holidays. Guests might be encouraged to come as Greco-Romans or Egyptian priests.
The menu could be Mediterranean, with lots of finger foods such as tahini and couscous and humous and pita bread, stuffed olives, eggplant/aubergine, goat's cheese and so on. Refried beans (which the Egyptians call "fuul" and eat for breakfast) would be ideal since the theory goes that the Moors introduced "fuul" to the Spaniards, who introduced it to the New World, where it became refritos -- Mexican refried beans.
But you should feel free to go local with favorite regional dishes of your home area. There must be lots of good South American dishes which would be perfect, or Scottish specialties, or Aussie barbecued prawns or New England pot pies -- good simple "plebeian" food which is festive and spicy and filling.
In keeping with these pagan festivals, foods should represent birth and regeneration: beans, peas, black-eyed peas, pumpkins, squash, nuts, berries.
It doesn't really matter what food is served, of course, as long as it's delicious and plentiful, and as long as there is plenty of drink to wash it down, wine or beer or just good old iced tea.
Beer is quite appropriate, since the Ancient Egyptians were brewing beer thousands of years before Antinous was born.
Just imagine: Antinous' last meal may have been refried beans and beer and flat bread.
In a change from holiday cakes and cookies, how about baking Antinous cookies? Bake simple sugar cookies which have been cut out to resemble stars, comets, an imperial crown and Bithynian fir trees and lions and so on and decorate them with Antinoian lettering or symbols.
Instead of gingerbread men, make gingerbread Antinouses. The gingerbread man, after all, is thought to come from pagan rituals for honoring Thor or other gods. Generally, they are sweet dough which is filled with a nut-date-spice filling representing rebirth and spiritual sustenance. You still find them today on St. Nicholas' feast day throughout Europe.
Whatever you bake, make sure to include a small "surprise" somewhere in the cake or muffin or cookes for some lucky guest to chomp down on. It doesn't have to be a diamond ring, but a trinket of some sort is always fun.
If that is too challenging for your skills as a confectioner, then just an ordinary cake with the letters "A-N-T-I-N-O-U-S" in store-bought candy lettering would do the job just as nicely.
Or just a large "A" in icing in the middle of the cake.
Another tradition should be oracle games. This is the first major festival of the New Year in the Antinoian liturgical calendar, so oracles are appropriate.
And when your guests suggest you are robbing traditions from Christian festivals, just look them square in the eye and insist that the Christians stole these wonderful traditions from us pagans because the Christians didn't have any of their own. Where would Christian holidays be without pagan traditions?
Who knows? Perhaps Hadrian and Antinous enjoyed these very same pagan traditions in their Saturnalia revelries.
One more thing: Mistletoe. Mistletoe is plentiful in the forests of Bithynia. Antinous would be well familiar with mistletoe. I'm sure he would like it as a reminder of his boyhood hikes through the woods of home.
Use your imagination and you'll come up with lots of ideas.
Let the Festive Season Begin with an Antinous Birthday Party!