The Winter Solstice is a big deal—at least it has been, historically. The day is unique among days: it features the longest night of the year, which means it also marks, as my hippie-minded family would say when I was a kid, "the return of the light." This is both literal and metaphoric; it's a time to acknowledge and let go of the despair of the preceding year. The Romans celebrated for a week, starting with the Saturnalia on December 17, which Catullus called "the best of days!" The festival culminated in The Birthday of the Sun on December 25, which is probably how Christmas got its date. (Birthday of the Son? Because contemporary-English wordplay was common in Ancient Rome?) Here are the objects and attitudes you'll need to celebrate properly in your apartment.
These are the crux of the celebration, the best way to form some tactile connection to light and its creation. (Flipping a switch is so unromantic.) You can do ordinary or weird things with these candles: light them and sit around them while you talk to your friends and family, or light them and ceremonially place them in a pool of water and close your eyes and hum the melodies to songs about the sun. Whatever makes you comfortable. [photo
Romans closed the courts on Saturnalia; they also couldn't start a war that day. So I mean it, guys: no declarations of war on the Winter Solstice. [photo
Gambling was also a typical part of Saturnalia celebrations. I guess you could play cards instead, but dice seem seedier, and all this hippy-dippy bullshit could use some grit. [photo
Invert Your Ranks
In Rome, masters would serve slaves, who could get drunk and run their mouths and not get whipped for it. So... I'm not sure how this works in the modern age. You deliver the food to the delivery guy's apartment? Uh, you bus the busboy's table? Errr, dogs wear shoes? [photo
Wine, Wine, Wine
- But what will everyone else have?
And more wine!! It ain't
the Solstice if you ain't drunk. [photo