Reposted from an essay a few years back that aired on NPR. Writer is Diane Roberts.
What’s this empire coming to? Now they want us to stop greeting people with “Io Saturnalia!” “We have all these different cultures in Rome,” they tell us. “We shouldn’t offend anyone,” they tell us, “We’ve got to be inclusive.”
We’ve got the barbarians from the north with their tree decorations and their fire rituals. And the weirdos from Gaul, cutting mistletoe with a golden sickle. And the Mithraists, the Zoroastrians, the Isis cults, and, of course, those characters who hang out in the catacombs. “Hail, Winter!” we’re supposed to say. I ask you, what next: we lose the feast? We stop the Solstice parties? No more honoring Ops, goddess of abundance?
I was buying some greenery down by the Forum the other day, and there’s old Macrobius with some Visigoth chick, and she goes, “Gut Jule.” And I go, “Hey! In this country, we say, “Io, Saturnalia! Maybe you should go back to where you came from.” Then Macrobius goes, “She can’t, she’s a slave.”
At this time of year, the Visigoths sacrifice a pig and burn a special log that they dance around, instead of acting like normal people and going to the temple of Saturn.
I swear, I was at this party over at Septima Commodia’s house the other day. She always has a Saturnalia party. Anyway, she decorated the place with prickly green leaves. “It’s holly,” she said, “The latest fashion from Brittania. They all do it in Londinium.”
It gets worse.
She had this statue of some goddess from Ultima Thule or somewhere, name of Frigga, sitting right there on the dining room mensa. I mean, this is darned near blasphemous. I’d be scared about what the lares and penates would do if I put that thing in my house. But Septima Commodia just said, “Oh get over it! We’re cosmopolitan around here.” Cosmopolitan. That’s what they call it. Well by Jupiter, I live in Latium. I’m a Roman. And this empire was founded on the principle that the gods, our gods, must be honored at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. None of this foreign heretical nonsense or these strange customs from Germania or Hibernia or Palestine. I say, “Io, Saturnalia!” and if you don’t like it, you can leave.
— Diane Roberts