16 March 2011

16 March - Ember Day; Liberalia; Raspberry Wine

Weather: Ember Day - the weather today foretells the weather of April.

Cloudy, overcast, rainy.

The ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Bacchus - Liberalia - was celebrated today [and if that isn't a reason for a party, I don't know what is].  According to Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875) (found here at Lacus Curtius, part of Bill Thayer's website), Roman youths who had attained their 16th year received their toga virilus (the white toga of an adult man) today.

Ovid, in his Fasti, says that the Liberalia was held on the third day after the Ides (the 15th), which, if counted inclusively, translates to the 17th of March.

There’s a popular festival of Bacchus, on the third day
After the Ides: Bacchus, favour the poet who sings your feast...
The task of this verse is to set out the reasons,
Why a vine-planter sells his cakes to the crowd.
Liber, before your birth the altars were without offerings,
And grass appeared on the stone-cold hearths.
They tell how you set aside the first fruits for Jupiter,
After subduing the Ganges region, and the whole of the East.
You were the first to offer up cinnamon and incense
From conquered lands, and the roast entrails of triumphal oxen.
Libations derive their name from their originator,
And cake (liba) since a part is offered on the sacred hearth.
Honey-cakes are baked for the god, because he delights in sweet
Substances, and they say that Bacchus discovered honey...

So celebrate that which gladdens men's hearts and fogs their minds on the 16th or 17th (or both days, if you are so inclined).  To help, here is a recipe from the early 18th century for "RASBERRY (sic) WINE":

"Take ye frute full ripe, brus and strain ym, and to every gallan of juce put 2 pound of sugar.  Put it in a barrill or pot and boung it close up.  Let it stand a month or 5 weeks yn bottel it.  Put in every bottel a lump of sugar.  You may make chirey wine ye same way.

[Take the fruit full ripe, bruise and strain them, and to every gallon of juice put 2 pounds of sugar.  Put it in a barrel or pot and bung it close up.  Let it stand a month or 5 weeks, then bottle it.  Put in every bottle a lump of sugar.  You may make cherry wine the same way.]

Then drink heroically.  Or go the easy route and uncork an elixir from California.