Move Over, Halloween, This Ancient Roman Holiday Is the Real ‘Gay Christmas’
The gays have long referred to Halloween as “gay Christmas,” but did you know there’s actually a different holiday that more perfectly matches that description? So gather ‘round the rainbow Yule, join the queer chorus, and follow me in merry measure as I tell you about what is about to become your new favorite holiday, Saturnalia.
Gay Christmas, otherwise known as Saturnalia, was an ancient Roman festival held in mid-December to honor Saturn, the god of sowing, plenty, and agriculture. Though Saturnalia initially started as a one-day affair, it quickly grew into a three-day — and then a week-long — festivity. Because if you’re going to do Gay Christmas, you’re going to do it right.
Many present day Christmas traditions can be traced back to Saturnalia. Customs like decorating our homes with wreaths, singing, feasting, and gift giving all originated during this holiday. Schools were closed, business was halted, and the courts were out of session. Strict dress codes were loosened, with participants exchanging their togas for more colorful clothing, and even gambling was allowed. So basically all the most gay Christmas traditions come from Saturnalia.
Of course, this was still a particularly holy day for the Romans. Official rituals were observed, sacrifices were made, and the statue of Saturn — whose feet were normally bound with wool — was unbound to symbolize liberation.
Some ways Saturnalia participants celebrated were … less than traditional. The holiday is rumored to have featured “lads running naked about the place, cross-dressing for dinner, tops becoming bottoms, masters waiting on their servants … sausages, wine, cunnilingus and fruitcake.”
So, depending on how you live your life, maybe these are regular Christmas traditions for you, too. We don’t judge!
Things got so out of control that the author Pliny “reportedly built a soundproof room so that he could work during the raucous celebrations.” Lucian of Samosata listed “drinking and being drunk, noise and games and dice … [and] singing naked” as common Saturnalia activities.
I don’t know, sounds kind of fun to us.