It's That Time of Year

The sound systems in supermarkets and shopping malls are blaring Christmas music, your neighbors have extra lights that are well on their way to frying the local electrical grid and you're trying to figure out an appropriate gift for the uncle who last year gave you From Prairies to Peaks: A History of the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, 1905-2012.

Well, maybe you would like to avoid Yuletide this year. Maybe you're not in the mood for wreaths and eggnog. Take heart. You've got options. You can find something else to celebrate. There are ways to warm your heart, hang out with loved ones, and have a great (or at least interesting) time that don't involve Christmas.


Option 1: Yes, Virginia, there is a Festivus. The celebration introduced to the world by Frank Costanza doesn't just exist on Seinfeld reruns. The Wisconsin and Florida state capitols currently have Festivus poles on display. You can buy your own here. And if you're a little hazy on the exact steps to celebrating Festivus, there's a primer here. Just be careful: nobody would enjoy the Feats of Strength more than me, but it's not worth hurting yourself.


Option 2: Semper Saturnalia agunt. Celebrations of the Ancient Romans' favorite holiday didn't end with the reign of the Caesars. However, Saturnalia is not yet the holiday juggernaut Festivus is, so this is your chance to get in on the ground floor. Philadelphia Classical Society President Mary Brown tells you all you need to know about the Romans' favorite holiday here. If you can snag an affordable flight to the UK, check out the city of Chester's Saturnalia parade on the nineteenth. And one of our good friends over at Nova Roma (an international organization dedicated to the revival of Ancient Roman culture) gives detailed instructions on celebrating the holiday and shares her account of her daughter's first Saturnalia.

Option 3: Midvinterblót. The name of this Viking holiday* comes from the verb "blota," meaning "to sacrifice" or "to strengthen." It was traditionally celebrated in January, but if you decide to move it up a few weeks, I don't think the blót police will come looking for you. Compared to Festivus or Saturnalia, it's relatively simple: just members of a community sitting around a steaming cauldron of sacrificed animals having a meal with the gods and the elves intended to insure harmony between humans and other beings.**

*Not to be confused with the painting by Carl Larsson, the album by the Swedish death metal band Unleashed, or the Swedish folk-metal band performing in Stockholm next Jan. 25.

**With the exception, I suppose, of the sacrificed animals.

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