Saturnalia

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Definition

The Saturnalia was an enduring Roman festival dedicated to the agricultural god Saturn which was held between the 17th and 23rd of December each year during the winter solstice. Originating from archaic agricultural rituals the Roman festivities came to include a general round of gift-giving, merrymaking, and role-reversals so that it became one of the most popular celebrations in the calendar and certainly the jolliest. The similarities of some of its features and the timing - pushed later into December over time - suggest a strong influence on the Christian celebration of Christmas.

More about: Saturnalia

Timeline

  • c. 500 BCE
    Beginning of the Roman Saturnalia festival according to Livy (although there is evidence it was a much older tradition).
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