Today, December 17, is the first day of the traditional week-long ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a major holiday that involved large amounts of drinking and partying and also role reversal between different social classes. For example, slaves got to play the role of masters and vice versa. Some historians believe that the early Christian Church set Dec. 25 as the date for Christmas in part to have a holiday of its own at the same time as Saturnalia in order to supplant a pagan festival with a Christian one. Here's a short description of Saturnalia from the Encyclopedia Romana:
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."
In the law school world, maybe we could revive Saturnalia by having students and professors switch places for a day. I sure hope that some students might want to do my job this week, so that they can enjoy the process of grading the large pile of exams on my desk:). The "drinking, noise and games and dice" could also be fun. In any event, Happy Saturnalia everyone, especially to all of our Roman readers:).