The Volokh Conspiracy

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Happy Saturnalia—2020!

Continuing a longstanding Volokh Conspiracy tradition of celebrating this ancient Roman holiday.


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 blogosphere 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."

As is often the case, we have no shortage of strong applicants for the position of Lord of Misrule. A particularly formidable one is on his way out of the White House. But he may not disappear from the political scene entirely. And, even if he does, there are many other worthy competitors for the "honor."

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

NOTE: Much of this post is adopted from Saturnalia posts from previous years.