Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's Celebrate Satvrnalia!

Say Merry Christmas you
son of a bitch!
Hey, you know what's not really a thing? The War on Christmas. Yeah, that's right, I said it. Sure, every once in a while some rich, loud-mouthed white guy with a persecution complex starts flapping his jowls about how the bank teller said 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Birth of Our Lord/God Jesus,' but it's not actually a conspiracy. In fact according to this Gallup Poll, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. So settle down everybody, it's not going anywhere.

Yeah, so how that's coming Doc?

That said, I'd like to propose we start a War on Christmas. "Oh but why?" You say. Seriously, if you're going to keep interrupting me, we're going to have problems. But to answer your question, we're going to have to go back in time. Not literally, because they haven't invented time machines...yet.

Let us go back (again, figuratively) to ancient Rome. The ancient Romans had this Festival called Saturnalia, which according to my exhaustive research of several websites written by people who did actual exhaustive research (citation!), was awesome.
Oh, you baked Christmas cookies and watched It's a Wonderful Life?
That's nice...What did we do? Oh, we went to Mark Antony's orgy.
According to noted historians like Suetonius and Wikipedius, Saturnalia would later be adopted by early Christians who got rid of all the awesome parts and called it Christmas. Thanks guys, thanks a lot. Look, I've said it before and I'll say it again: they ruin everything. Well I think it's time we took back Saturnalia (and Dinosaurs), and here're several reasons why:

"Io, it's Saturnalia dawg!"
-Marcus Tullius Cicero, 52 B.C.
The Greeting
Often a source of irrational contention (see above), the traditional Christmas greeting is usually something like Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or if you're Brittish and/or pretentious, Happy Christmas. Bo-ring. Ancient Romans would greet each other around this time with 'Io Saturnalia,' which meant 'Wooo! Saturnalia!'-which itself is pretty great, but 'io' is pronounced 'yo' as in 'yo, s'up?' So on a very fundamental level, Saturnalia is cooler than Christmas.

"For the last time Steven,
I'm not taking my top off."
Maybe it's a generational thing but there is nothing less appealing to me than the idea of jerks roaming the neighborhood belting out the same damn songs I've already had to endure everywhere I go for the last two months. Caroling combines the fun of being cold with the wholesome awkwardness of family sing-alongs. Not so in ancient Rome: To celebrate Saturnalia, people got drunk, got naked and ran around town singing and (presumably shouting) "Wooo! Saturnalia!" Think Mardi Gras, but in latin.

It's like the joke-wall from
Laugh-In except with
chocolate and patience
instead of Lily Tomlin.

The Twelve Years of Christmas
Seriously, it's time to reel it in. About twenty minutes after Halloween ends, the stores pack up the orange Kit Kats and the slutty nurse costumes and roll out Christmas. Two months of build up for only two days of actual holiday, and that's if you count Christmas Eve. Yup, Christmas is mostly filler. Saturnalia on the other hand was invented by a people who at one point had 159 holidays, so you know they weren't screwing around. At its height, it was a week long celebration. You got seven days off. Seven, not this long weekend crap, seven days where no one had to work, and you could totally show up to dinner in your casual tunic instead of your formal toga, which was the classical world equivalent of wearing a Forever Lazy. Party on Romans, party on.

Only the first 75 people through the
door get a Kinect and by extension,
their child's love.
Gift Giving (Advantage: Christmas)
Every year we spend billions of dollars on expensive crap we don't need. Hell, we even trample each other to death just to be first in line to purchase the afore mentioned crap. For Saturnalia, people just gave each other candles...hmmm...crass consumerism aside, I guess I'm going to have to give this one to Christmas. The last thing any of us want is a fatal stampede at Yankee Candle Company. The smell of Pumpkin Spice and Warm Cookies would be forever linked to panic and know, more so.

He sees you when you are sleeping,
he knows when you're awake,
he follows you to the gym, the grocery store,
I think he even goes through your trash.

Santa Clause. I'm not really clear on the origin story, but I think he was crucified by the Romans for re-gifting some myrrh or something-but who cares? Basically he's a creepy fat guy who breaks into your house and gives your kids homemade toys that suck and are probably educational. Then there's Saturn, the reason for the season in ancient Rome. He's a titan and the god of the harvest and time. Also, he once ate his children. That's right, he ate his god-damned children because he thought they were a threat. What's Santa got that can possibly top that? Flying reindeer? Saturn's got a planet named after him (but then, who doesn't?). Suck it Claus!

Let's tally up the points here...yup, that's it, war over 4-1. Saturnalia: Accomplished! Oh, and FYI: it starts on the 17th leaving you only two more shopping days to buy your candles and bake some dormice. You'd better get cracking, because you do not want to piss off Saturn. Oh, and if you're bothered by the whole ate his own children thing, don't worry, he was later tricked into puking them up, but it doesn't end there: Freshly regurgitated, Saturn's kids then castrated him and threw his titan junk into the ocean. It's a Saturnalia Miracle!

It's that time of year again!

Streaks on the china are going to matter like never before.
You're in Belvedere's house now, bitches!
Bonus Points:
Saturnalia celebrations also included a kind of social class swap wherein the household slaves would trade places with their masters. The slaves would wear their master's clothes, the head of the household would serve them dinner, and everyone would have a big laugh about slavery-it was a whole thing. While there isn't really a modern equivalent unless you have a housekeeper-that you own, it's still pretty interesting. I guess a society where something like a fifth of the population was enslaved and could revolt at any minute would be pretty interested in keeping them happy.

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