A traditional Christmas means getting drunk and demanding a bonus

This article first appeared in the Herald Sun

If you didn’t know, Santa was put in a red suit and made fat and jolly by Coca Cola in the 1930s, Christmas trees were invented by Germans in the 1800s, and the first Christmas Day was celebrated only 2018 years ago.

Singing Christmas carols, giving presents, and overindulging in everything fun are traditions that go back much further, but we’re doing them wrong.

Like everything good, such as wearing onesies to work, wine with every meal, sewage systems, the calendar, and Asterix and Obelix, many of our current Christmas traditions started with the Romans.

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebrated from December 17 to 23, and the Greeks had a similar party but it wasn’t in December so who cares. The Roman Saturnalia involved a banquet, gift-giving and continual partying, meaning that presents, parties and overdoing everything are as traditional as it gets.

Here’s the twist. Saturnalia involved reversing social norms, meaning that gambling was permitted, so was fornication out of wedlock, and masters provided table service for their slaves. Basically, it was like a night out at your local pokies pub, with security provided by Richmond fans on day five of their Grand Final celebrations, and Melbourne supporters pouring all the drinks.

Christianity soon took over, and same as Easter borrowed heavily from pagan traditions, Christmas took Saturnalia and called it Misrule, but changed little else. Same as Telecom became Telstra, but Misrule had more booze and better service.

Hard drinking was a key part of the event, as was masters waiting on their slaves, and both traditions even made it into the American South. In Europe, where slavery was frowned upon far sooner, the tradition took a turn that’s extremely applicable to today.

During the holiday season, it was completely acceptable and encouraged for employees to roam the streets singing and getting sloshed, and to visit the homes of the rich and powerful, and demand food, drink, and service.

The party continued until the mid-1800s when the middle class ruined it all, with their early bedtimes, responsible saving plans, khaki pants, pointless pets, pristine garden beds, new carpets, and unwillingness to be involved.

I used to believe that schools closing for Christmas and Christmas work bonuses were something to do with the rich and powerful being nice to us little folk, and teachers having a strong union, but it is suspected that both these traditions emerged as a further way to crush the remaining Misrule. As there is less reason to loot your bosses house if they’ve just given you cash, and it’s far harder to have a big night when you have to be up at 6am to feed and entertain your spawn.

I don’t know anyone who still gets a Christmas bonus, so perhaps the key take-away here is to bring back Misrule, until those in charge reinstate Christmas bonuses.

So, this holiday season, let’s get everyone in the office together and go visit the boss, and refuse to leave until we’re all well fed, very drunk, and gotten a bonus. Then if anyone, including the police, demands to know what we’re doing, we can claim to be celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.

This article first appeared in the Herald Sun

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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