People love to point out how rooted in paganism the Christmas tradition is. The pagan god, Nimrod that would come down chimneys and burn your children alive for being bad, for example. Probably the best pagan reference is the most true and that is the Roman tradition of Saturnalia. This celebration and time of sacrifice to the god of Saturn that occurred in late December would eventually get replaced by worship of the Son instead of a Sun. Either way you look at this holiday it is both Christian and pagan (whatever the word pagan actually means).
Anyway, as I was standing in line yesterday waiting to buy a ham that I wanted to smoke, I noted that there was a long line of people. Most of whom were buying copious amounts of alcohol. One of these would be revelers dropped some coins into the Salvation Army bucket on his way out. This made me think that perhaps the Roman tradition was not that far off and in fact maybe it is more reality then we want to admit.
You see during Saturnalia, the romans would abandon most social convention. There was a continual party like atmosphere everywhere in Rome. People would gather together in private family ceremonies and give gifts to each other, and of course continue to drink as much alcohol as possible. This was the best days for Rome and slaves would be given temporary reprieve. Everyone would join in the gift giving and partying.
The Christians, once they succeeded in converting Rome to adopt an official monotheistic state religion, would declare success. However, in standing in the line and watch my fellow Romans get ready for their festivities I really started to wonder maybe we are more Roman than we want to admit.