courtesy Travis Hardin Home : Essays : Io Saturnalia

From the LocSec: Io Saturnalia
by Travis Hardin, December 2007

Originally published in the newsletter of North Alabama Mensa

It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations, as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business....Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct; whether we should eve in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity, both take a better supper and throw off the toga. --Seneca the Younger, AD 50

From Wikipedia comes the explanation that the toga was thrown off for "colorful, informal ‘dinner clothes’ and the pileus (freedman's hat)." The season's greeting "Io, Saturnalia!" (Pronounced YO) has been replaced with "Merry Christmas!" -- with a push from Constantine -- but how little else has changed! I send you both salutations and every other solstice wish in this December greeting, including "Happy Festivus."

Our members have been taking initiatives: I went over to see the great Mensa display in the entryway of the Bailey Cove library that was conceived and set up very attractively by Katherine Levine. People have definitely been paying attention to it and taking the literature. I made some pictures and asked our editors to publish one if there’s room. The display ends November 30.

Mensan Allison Day, who teaches yoga and similar arts at her Willow Tree Studios in Madison, gave an early evening class for Mensans only on November 10th. She had two takers. Thank you for the treat, Allison. That’s how easy it is to plan a Mensa activity: Do something you want to do, then invite the rest of us to join you by calling our editors and putting it on the calendar. The best-attended activity draws no more than 20 people, making every activity relatively informal.


The Phrygian hat, a type of pilius, was red.

Send comments about this page to Travis Hardin,

Last updated April 2016