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4. Meet Saturnalia, the Holiday that Christmas Had to Beat

Obviously, Christians weren’t the first ones to want to celebrate an important date in the winter. In fact, before Christmas could truly take hold, Christmas had to work in conjunction with another holiday. Something a little more . . . liberal. Historically, the dates of December 17-25 marked the pagan holiday of Saturnalia. For reasons that shall soon be made clear, Saturnalia was a massive hit among the Roman people. Like a Greco-Roman Purge Night, Saturnalia was a seven-day period in which the Roman courts shut down and absolutely no laws were enforced. Even better, over the course of the week, towns would pick one person whom they’d ply endlessly with sex, booze, and decadent food. At the end of the week, said person would get sacrificed . . . but death was probably a sweet release at that point. Throughout Saturnalia, there was rampant boozing, tons of gratuitous nudity, more than a few reports of rape, cases of murder, and lots and lots of singing (also gratuitous). If the sum total of Saturnalia sounds mildly terrifying to you, congratulations on being a normal human.


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