December 17th is the Roman feast of Saturn, the Saturnalia. Over the years it expanded to become an entire week of festivities.
During Saturnalia all the conventions of Rome were thrown aside. It was the Roman Version of the Dionysian Mysteries. But the Roman festival seems to have been far earthier, and a lot more fun.
Masters became the servants. Women acted like men. Rules around what you could eat or drink or how to behave were thrown away. Chaos and fun were the order of the day.
From Saturnalia we get one of our most enduring Christmas traditions, the Pantomime. The male hero is played by a woman. Dames are played by men. Farce and comedy are feted in place of po-faced theatre. There are no seats for litterati at the panto. It is owned by children, small ones and big ones.
It is a tried and true formula. The good guys always triumph, the guy gets the girl and there are no nasty surprises. “He’s behind you!”
Audience participation is de-rigeur.
Oh no, it isn’t…..
The Pantomime – A Humorous Poem -by Blackangelwings
I’ll boo if I want to
I’ll jump up and down
I’ll hiss at the Stepmother
And laugh at her crown.
I’ll be the first to scream
When a cow is sold for beans
I’ll tremble at the Giant’s voice
When Jack escapes, I will rejoice.
I’ll scramble for sweets
That Seven Dwarfs throw
I won’t push over children
It’s rather naughty I know.
As children to the woods are banished
My inhibitions tend to vanish
As a glass slipper is forced on willing toes
I’ll shout ‘She’s behind you’ wherever the Evil Dame goes.
I won’t give a care
When adults turn to stare
I’ll laugh at the old gags, they’re always the same
I’ll be jolly and excited, so very glad I came.
Maybe I’ll stay in my seat
If the interval provides a fluorescent treat
A glowing wand this year
As previous swords made me reckless, I fear.
I won’t whistle at the Principle Boy
You told me Santa would take back a toy
I’ll cheer as a Prince so brave
Breaks the curse of a glass coffin grave.
When Witches appear I’ll roar out a boo
I promise not to swear or turn the air blue
As Ugly Sisters pull up their chests
I’ll just giggle and won’t be a pest.
I’ll journey on a carpet somewhere nice
I won’t heckle the Genie or give my advice
I may weep a bucket full of tears
As into Snow White’s mouth a poisoned apple disappears.
This Pantomime time
I won’t commit the crime
Of running down the aisle
Two steps at a time.
I won’t even jump on the stage this year
I’ve heard of Health and Safety fears
I must admit though, I’ll miss all the attention
It’s far more fun than collecting my pension!