Io Saturnalia!

Company Culture, Entrepreneurs Posted Dec 18, 2014 by chenpr

I have a reputation for being a grump during the holidays. Although I disagree with the charge, I understand the basis for such claims: I’m not keen on spending money on frivolous things; I don’t like crowds; and the effort it takes to drag boxes of decorations out of the basement in order to deck the halls, trim the trees, and otherwise gussy up the house for a few weeks seems unnecessary. Not to mention contrary to the teachings of the One whose birth we ostensibly observe each December 25.

Okay, maybe I am a grump.

A few years ago I decided that, despite my misgivings, I should not deny myself the pleasures of the season and I found a loophole offering convenient cover: Saturnalia.

Back in their day the Romans observed Saturnalia—a festival in honor of the god Saturn. The week-long event was marked by gift giving, merry making and lavish feasts where masters served their slaves. By some accounts Saturnalia was a good time to be a Roman and when Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, many of the Saturnalia traditions were co-opted by the nascent church and are carried on today during the Christmas holiday.


Rather than grouse about what Christmas has become, why not simply go back to what it was and enjoy the revelry with family and friends? And thus began a new tradition that is now part of the CHEN culture.

Over the course of the year, my first as a member of CHEN PR, it has been my great fortune to meet a bunch of wonderful people. As paths converge and diverge, the busy-ness of life can make it difficult to keep in touch with everyone you meet, but some encounters stand out for various reasons and Saturnalia has become a great excuse to gather some of those people together and get to know them better and to introduce them to each other.

The mix of characters that congregated at the Silvertone Bar & Grill last night included old friends, co-workers, former colleagues, people I’ve met at business and industry functions and some folks who started off as nothing more than random encounters but that blossomed into conversations that stuck with me. I wanted to get to know each of them better and to introduce them to the other fascinating people I know. There were so many people and so many conversations that I didn’t get a chance to spend as much time with everyone as I would have liked, but I learned that one of last night’s attendees is working in his spare time on a line of men’s fashion accessories (I’m going to be a customer); one just finished a book that is due out in early 2015—and she’s already negotiating the film rights (I’m insanely jealous); and another is deeply involved in helping to address the plight of homelessness in Boston (I’m humbled).

I never would have learned these things under the usual work-a-day routine. Rather than settle for a polite exchange of business cards and an empty promise to keep in touch, everyone who came to Saturnalia took a chance and made the effort to share.

As I rode home on the train, and with ample time to reflect on the people and the conversations, I couldn’t help but be touched by the connections and friendships made. There’s no tree big enough for the gifts I received last night.

Io Saturnalia!