Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Note about Festivus

Most of us are familiar with the time-hallowed tradition of Festivus. Commonly thought to have originated with a neurotic New York Jewish man sometime at the end of the 20th c. some of its customs can actually be confidently predated to at least 1000 BCE.

וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְנֵר אֶל יוֹאָב יָקוּמוּ נָא הַנְּעָרִים וִישַׂחֲקוּ לְפָנֵינוּ וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹאָב יָקֻמוּ.
Then Abner suggested to Joab, "Let's have a few of our warriors fight hand to hand here in front of us." "All right," Joab agreed.

(II Samuel 2:14)

Gil expounds:
let the young men now arise, and play before us; with their swords after the manner of gladiators or duellers; that it might appear who were best skilled in the use of the sword

In modern Hebrew Parlance this phrase came to be used as a form of mockery against an opponent who is perceived to be unqualified or incompetent with the matter at hand.

Yigael Yadin (one of my favorite people of all time) in an interesting article on what this term really means reproduces an ancient relief (circa 9th c. BCE) from Assyria which shows two opponents sparring against one another


In the Gallilean village of Peqiin, a mixed village of Christians, Muslims, Druze and Jewish Mustara'abin, an interesting custom is recorded. On the night of the a young man's nuptials, various performances were staged for the assembled. One of them included a display of strength from the family member on the bride's side. This was meant to send a message that the bride is well protected by capable men, should the need ever arise.


For more on Jewish Peqi'in,see here and here

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