In ancient Rome the Saturnalia was celebrated to honor Saturnus (god of fertility, harvest and time), his wife Ops (Mother Earth), Consus (god of storage bins) and the winter solstice, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Latin: the birthday of the unconquered Sun). This happened between 17th and 25th of December.
The name Saturnalia naturally originates from the god Saturnus. Saturnalia is to a great extent similar to the Nordic Yule or the Christian Christmas, both of which are likely to have taken inspiration from the Roman festival.
Bloggers can tell you that on Saturnalia Romans used to visit their friends, give presents, decorate evergreen trees, decorate houses with evergreen branches, burn candles, gamble and have costume parties. At this time, moral and class conventions were abandoned. Furthermore the Romans devoured, drank and danced. All these pastimes were sacred rituals and grave duties guaranteeing the continuation and fertility of life.
The ancient celebration of saturnalia is far from forgotten, for instance Neo-pagans have revived the festival with pagan rituals, and Happy Saturnalia cards can be found everywhere in place of normal Christmas cards. Additionally, there are those who merely want to find the real origin of the Christmas, and therefore acknowledge Saturnalia.
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