The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

Spyglass

  • ❤ February 12th Edition Out Now! ❤
The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

Spyglass

The student-run newspaper of Westridge School for Girls, Spyglass strives to build community and evoke empathy through the medium of journalism. Comprised of passionate student writers, editors, designers, managers, and leaders, Spyglass is dedicated to ethical reporting that amplifies our unique voices to inform, entertain, and forge connection in the Westridge community and beyond.

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Io, Io, Io, Merry Saturnalia!

Io, Io, Io, Merry Saturnalia!

If you even have time to read this between madly revising AP Bio labs while applying to college while writing a seasonally delightful piece for Spyglass’ holiday edition while wishing you had a prescription for Ritalin or Zoloft or both before the semester ends a month earlier than usual on Friday, you will be delighted to hear that my journalistic research has led me to conclude that this unholy compressed schedule has been inflicted upon us for a reason. 

The universe (acting through its emissaries at Westridge) has liberated us from the shackles of studying over winter break so that we can bring back Saturnalia. 

For non-Latin students, Saturnalia was a pagan festival celebrated in ancient Rome at the winter solstice. Saturnalia honored Saturn, the god of the harvest, but it was mostly known for being seven straight days of annual debauchery featuring excessive drinking, feasting, gambling, and a certain relaxation of moral conventions. Saturnalia was held between December 17 and December 23 every year. Note that this perfectly coincides with the last day of the semester on December 15. Coincidence? I think not. 

First of all, drunken orgy components aside (or not), Saturnalia is very on-brand for Westridge. Saturnalia was unique in its inclusivity: it was the only Roman holiday that was celebrated by everyone, not just the upper classes. During the holiday week, people of all ranks wore the cone-shaped hat (“pileus”) of the freed enslaved person, symbolizing that each person wasat least temporarilyequal to their neighbor and able to take liberties with their behavior. Saturnalia was like a next-level Yam Festival, where cultural barriers were deconstructed and the whole community came together to celebrate on common ground. Except that instead of coming together around yams, everyone just…came together.

Compared with the weeklong Saturnalian bacchanal, our modern-day customs of toasting Jesus’ virgin birth with virgin eggnog while jolly-but-geriatric Santa Claus looks on is about as spicy as my recipe for pumpkin spice cake in the holiday baking section of this edition. The Westridge administration probably recognized that since the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan rites in 390 AD, students’ ability to blow off steam during the winter holidays has been compromised. They know we need Saturnalia. It’s a mental health issue! 

Consider also the possibility that the adults at Westridge are simply concerned about what passes for “partying” these days and have decided to intercede for our own good. Our illustrious faculty came of age with ’70s discos, Bret Easton Ellis vibes, ’80s coke parties, heroin-chic ’90s grunge mosh pits, and early 2000s club kid raves. They are understandably confused by today’s youth’s coffee meet-ups, marathon group text therapy sessions, hiking dates, crochet clubs, and cookie baking parties. Even the most dissolute among us exhibit only a watered-down, White Claw version of debauchery. We are just too wholesome. They think we are ticking time bombs that could blow at any moment if we don’t decompress, and they are taking action. After multiple double secret sessions at faculty in-service days dedicated to this crisis, the Westridge leadership team (with input from Dr. M) has discerned that the solution is to encourage us to party like it’s 99 B.C.E. Our assignment over winter break is to bring back the revelry of Saturnalia!

Since CbC credit in History will undoubtedly be offered for Saturnalian participation next year, you might as well get a head start. Here’s a quick guide to help you kick off the festivities:

  1. Ancient Rome shut down completely for the duration of Saturnalia. Schools, businesses, and courts of law were officially closed to facilitate the festivities. Even enslaved people didn’t have to work. Channel this. Refuse to do anything remotely productive between December 17 and December 23. Act offended if people question your pagan beliefs.
  2. During Saturnalia, normal social conventions were suspended. Roles were reversed and enslavers feasted with and served their enslaved domestic staff. Take advantage of the hierarchical disruption and demand that your parents obey you. Better yet, require your teachers to submit to your will when they grade your semester-end assignments. 
  3. Each household appointed a “Saturnalicius princeps,” or prince(ss) of Saturnalia, who presided over the merry-making, chaos, and impropriety by ordering celebrants to dance through the house naked, slam a cup of mulsum (spiced wine, 21 and over only, please), or sing raunchy tunes. Get appointed to this job and use it to your advantage. 
  4. Gamble! Whether you use knucklebones from the feet of goats or sheep like the Romans or log on to an offshore online gambling website is up to you. 
  5. Saturnalia celebrations were so noisy that the Roman writer Plinywho was obviously a total buzzkillbuilt a soundproof room so he could get some work done while everyone else was partying uproariously. Do your best to thwart anybody wishing for a soundproof chamber in your house.
  6. Romans gave each other small gifts, like terracotta figurines called sigillaria and wax candles. Gag-gifts were also popular. This is your chance to give cheap presents in the spirit of social equality and then act superior about it if anybody calls you on it. 

So go forth and celebrate the semester’s end, the solstice, and the season—Saturnalia-style. Your teachers insist upon it.

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About the Contributor
Reed D., Editor, Website Manager/Designer
Reed is a junior, and this is her fourth year on Spyglass and her second year juggling her roles as Editor, Website Manager, and Website Designer. Outside of writing for Spyglass, you can find her studying (or busy curating Spotify playlists) in a cafe, crocheting, thrifting, and spending time with her 8 pet chickens.

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