Merry Christmas, start gambling!

If you’re familiar with your gambling history (some of which you can find, in a single volume and at an outrageously affordable price, in Roll the Bones) you already know that, going back to the Romans, gambling was permitted, even encouraged, during the Saturnalia festival at the end of the year. Saturnalia evolved into Christmas, and the relaxation of gambling prohibitions during the Christmas season became enshrined in law several times over.

Now, of course, states let, and even encourage, people to gamble as much as they want, whenever they want. Apprentices never have to worry about their masters beating them for dicing, and no one goes to the stocks for playing too much whist. But if you want to really live history, go all out over the next few days (betting with your head and not over it, naturally), secure in the fact that if you were living eight hundred years ago, the king’s law would protect you from punishment for doubling down.

If they’re still doing the Sands casino in Bethlehem, maybe they should play up that angle. Or not.

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