Happy Saturnalia!

Since around 220 BC from 17th-23rd of December, a Roman festival has taken place called Saturnalia, honouring Saturn the god of the land and agriculture.

Ancient Romans celebrating Saturnalia. Date: circa 200 BC

If you don’t know much about it you will be surprised to find there are some very familiar aspects to the celebration, as some elements are present in our modern-day Christmas festivities. The influence of this Roman festival is widespread throughout the western world.

Traditionally during mid-winter and at the Winter Solstice offerings were made to the gods. Usual work was abandoned and families and friends got together to feast, drink wine with honey whilst dressing the house with wreaths and ornaments in green and gold. Socialising and gift-giving abounded. Sound familiar?!


Known as ‘the best of times’, the celebration was also known for role reversals – those people who were normally kept as slaves by the Romans were given seats at the head of the table and served by their masters.

Many people still celebrate Saturnalia to this day. The ‘best of times’ certainly sounds good to me, although I have heard that part of the celebrations could involve naked singing… and well… it’s a bit chilly for things like that in Britain in December. I might put a scarf on and go carol singing instead! 🙂

Happy Saturnalia to one and all!