Nov/Dec 2006


Silly Joe

I must make a confession, which I know will shock and startle most of you good readers.
I have been known, on occasion, to behave foolishly.

Yes, yes, I know, it seems difficult to believe — but it's true. Halloween, for example, brings out the child in me — gazing in wonder and delight at every little bat and skeleton adorning the neighborhood, humming spooky little tunes and in general behaving as if I'm a young boy again, dreaming of the hordes of treats in store...

Ah, but Christmas Time — the child in me seems to take over — no, it's worse than that — I was never so silly when I was actually young! No, it's a Solstice Stew made up of equal parts infancy and senility, both of which by rights should be relatively distant at this time, with heady doses of jollity, frivolity, and heedless, uncaring, brazen, deliberate Holiday Lunacy tossed in. I break into carols without warning, I jump up and down in delight at the least manifestation of this wondrous Season, I take to the punchbowl and the music books with a vigor that elicits great consternation among my fellows...

I become exactly the sort of person that my younger self would have shied away from while proclaiming "I don't KNOW that guy!"

I blame the Romans, of course. I have long simply accepted that the frivolity that accompanies Christmas was in part a result of its supplanting the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, with its Lord of Misrule and general anarchic goings-on. I have always assumed that, unlike other Holiday Switches (such as All Saint's Day supplanting Halloween) which seemed to have an inherent logic to them, it was simply a happy accident that Christmas was able to inherit the spirit of merry making from its Pagan Predecessor.

Now, I think there may be more to it than that.

I think of the concept of the Lord of Misrule — the Saturnalian tradition that the mightiest and weightiest of people during these festivities would cast off their usual mortal masks and become almost child-like with mirth, while the lowest and most destitute would be exalted, and raised up, if only for the season, with the "Lord of Misrule" chosen from among the poorest of the poor.
It is no stretch of the imagination to imagine the applicability of such a tradition to the vision of Ebeneezer Scrooge reborn as "giddy as a schoolboy", or poor Tiny Tim raised up, literally and figuratively, out of poverty and presumably an early grave as a result of the preceding transformation.

Or even to envision, say, an infant born to a poor carpenter in a stable, in a remote piece of the mighty Empire of the aforementioned Romans, exalted to the highest conceivable position of them all...

And so, to all of you, a Happy Holiday Season, and may you all be filled with the most inspired silliness possible!

—Joe Nolte