Just a reminder that Christmas is a relative late-comer to the holiday season…
Saturnalia is the Roman agricultural festival that strongly influenced early Christian celebrations we now call Christmas. Traditionally celebrated between December 17th and the 23rd, Saturnalia was an overturning of traditional Roman norms and customs.
The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at theTemple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”
In this we can see many traditions which continue to today: gift giving, parties, masters serving slaves (Boxing Day in the UK and Canada).
Combined with Germanic pagan traditions of solstice festivals, the Christians co-opted Saturnalia for their own purposes and called it Christmas.
Frankly, I’m offended by this usurpation of and important Roman festival.
I say, let’s put the Saturn back into Saturnalia.