Friday, 17 December 2010

December - a time for feasting and merry sport

By early December, autumn sowing is finished. The ancient Romans celebrated by honouring Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing,with a festival.

Saturnalia (December 17th) was designated  a holy day (or holiday) on which religious rites were performed. It was also a festival day. After the sacrifice at the temple, there was a public banquet for the god.

During the holiday (which at various times lasted between a day and a week), restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes were permitted. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier 'golden age' thought to have been ushered in by the god. A 'Lord of Misrule' was chosen from among the slaves. He was allowed to order anyone to do anything he chose and had to be obeyed for the day. People ate massive quantities of food, drank a great deal, and engaged in entertainments such as dancing, parades, and plays.