Today is the first day of Saturnalia, the ancient Roman holiday that I have traditionally commemorated here at the Volokh Conspiracy (see here, here, and here). The Encyclopedia Romana has a helpful description of Saturnalia:
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.”
Sadly, Saturnalia cannot be properly celebrated in the great state of South Carolina, which bans the playing of “any game with cards or dice.” However, our readers in other states should live it up.
In the past, I have also taken the opportunity to explore the implications of Saturnalia for law school exams:
Sadly, Saturnalia usually falls right around the time when I have to grade large piles of exams. In the spirit of inverting the social order, I have…. suggested that the responsibility for grading these exams should be transferred to the students. Unruly student commenters on Saturnalia posts from previous years sometimes objected on the grounds that I didn’t propose that I should be the one to take the exam. That, however, was because exams occur before Saturnalia begins. Blame the academic calendar, not me (or perhaps blame those nefarious ancient Roman academics who made sure that Saturnalia only begins after the semester is over). However, I’m actually willing to make that exchange. I’m happy to take the exam if I can get out of doing the grading. After all, I’m the one who wrote the questions, so I’m pretty sure I know all the answers.