Christmas in Ancient Rome (AKA Saturnalia)

For the Love of Rome

Today we celebrate Christmas as a Christian festival, unfortunately commercialised by the West in more recent years. However, the falling of Christmas has fallen conveniently; in the same month as one of the highlights of the Roman calendar, Saturnalia.

Saturnalia was the 17th day of the month December in the Julian calendar, and celebrated the god Saturn. Later the festivities continued on up to the 23rd December (or Christmas Eve Eve to some of us!)


Thomas Couture captures Roman Saturnalia festivites that may look a familiar scene to modern readers!

“The Best of Days” (Catallus)

Saturnalia was a festival that many looked forward to, particularly slaves as it was the one day when they did not have to work and when they were treated to a banquet of the sort usually enjoyed by their masters. The day would begin with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn (in the Roman Forum)…

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