Happy Saturnalia—2019!

The Volokh Conspiracy tradition of celebrating Saturnalia continues.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Today is Saturnalia, an ancient Roman holiday with a long tradition here at the Volokh Conspiracy, which we are now continuing at our new home with Reason. Admittedly, it's  tradition only in so far as I have put up a post about it every December 17 for the last several years. But, by blogging standards, that's a truly ancient tradition indeed!

The Encyclopedia Romana has a helpful description of Saturnalia:

During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. . . Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. In the Saturnalia, Lucian relates that "During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside."

This year, to put it mildly, we have no shortage of strong applicants for the position of Lord of Misrule. The incumbent president and many other politicians of both parties are formidable candidates, indeed. The 2020 election has certainly brought many of them out of the woodwork.

Happy Saturnalia to all the friends, Romans, and Volokh Conspiracy readers out there!

NEXT: On the Timing of Judicial Decisions: The Case of Bowers v. Hardwick

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  1. What exactly does it mean to have your face corked? Sounds more unpleasant than the dunking in water.

    1. Nose plugs maybe?

    2. Maybe Premier Trudeau can explain the process. It involves putting burnt cork on one’s face in order to look black. Minstrel shows used it.

      I don’t know…slaves, corked faces…Saturnalia sure seems problematic.

      And with Chanukkah around the corner, I wonder what the Maccabees would think about it.

    3. According to the internet, “blackened by burnt cork.” The internet further tells us that Roman women used burnt cork was used as an eyelash thickener, and 19th century actors used it as stage makeup.

      I feel like I learned something today.

      1. I feel like I knew that at one time, but I am in my 60’s now. Certainly better than what first came to my mind!

  2. I like how secular ‘intellectuals’ disdain Christian/Western traditions in favor of older traditions it supplanted, (usually out of moral indignation) when they’d probably be the first to be nailed to a cross, or burnt alive in a wickerman, or been eaten in a sacrificial ritual if they actually were transplanted into these cultures.

    1. I mean, Christianity literally calls for followers to brutally murder me, and Christians around the world continue to push for laws that let them, so I’m not sure I get your point here.

    2. Yes, this post was an assault on your faith.

    3. Isn’t Christianity a Middle-Eastern religious tradition? I don’t recall Jesus hanging out in Berlin or whooping it up on the British Isles. What’s wrong with us European-descendants following actual Western European traditions?

  3. Happy Alvistide!

  4. Just imagine the coming Airing of Grievances by the butt hurt progressives.

    Merry Christmas. God Jul

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