“…And in some instances, Saturnalia was kicked off with a human sacrifice. See? We’re bringing it full circle…Yes, we could be more civilized than the ancient Romans and realize that human life is more important than snagging a PS4 for $20 less than the list price, but why would we when being greedy assholes is so much more fun?”
By Rachel Birdsell
It’s that magical time of year again. There’s frost on the windowpanes, buttered rum by the fireplace, trees laden with lights and decorations, and carolers in the snow. But most importantly, there are shoppers elbowing each other to get to the latest doll that some manufacturer has marketed so well, children all over the country are convinced that should the doll not be under the tree come Christmas morning, they will die, their pets will die and the world will explode into a fiery ball of disappointment. In other words, it’s Christmas.
As the stories of Black Friday injuries and even fatalities started trickling in, I was sure I had the beginnings of a great article. I was going to write about how Christmas has turned into a disgusting display of commercial greed. I had an entire lecture at the tip of my tongue about how vulgar it is that in their haste to be the first to grab the latest toy or gadget, shoppers actually trampled a man to death. I wanted to wax poetically about the true meaning of Christmas, about goodwill and peace, and family and friends. I wanted to inspire you to forego greed this Christmas and embrace true charity for our fellow humans. I wanted to convince you that we needed to return to the roots of Christmas.
But, then I realized that our society actually is reverting to the true origins of Christmas. I don’t mean the baby Jesus in a manger. I mean the pre-Jesus celebration, Saturnalia. Saturnalia was the festival celebrated by pagan Romans in honor of the deity Saturn. It was held from December 17 – 23 on the Julian calendar, and was celebrated with gift giving, merrymaking and eating so much food you wanted to puke. So far, so good. We modern Christmas revelers have that covered.
But, Saturnalia wasn’t all pigging out and partying. There was a darker side to the festival; one that we as a society are just now beginning to embrace. Along with being the party of the winter, Saturnalia was also the time when Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or even people, for that matter. This meant that assault and rape were the same as riding in a one-horse open sleigh. And in some instances, Saturnalia was kicked off with a human sacrifice. See? We’re bringing it full circle. Yes, we could be more civilized than the ancient Romans and realize that human life is more important than snagging a PS4 for $20 less than the list price, but why would we when being greedy assholes is so much more fun?
I say that this year when people try and remind you of the reason for the season, remind them of Saturnalia, that blessed time of raping, pillaging and murdering your neighbors. So, cheers to the return of Saturnalia. May it always keep the cockles of our hearts as toasty as a horde of sweaty Christmas shoppers at a 50% off sale.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org