7 Unusual Facts About Christmas in the Ancient World – Saturnalia

We are looking forward to the upcoming holidays, especially Christmas. Children love it because their parents give them presents, whereas adults see it as a chance for the family reunions. In general, Christmas is known to bring good health and joy back into everyone’s home. However, what many people do not know is where it all began and what the origins of Christmas are.

In this article, we are going to introduce you with Saturnalia, the ancient version of Christmas.

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Saturnalia Was a Roman Festival in Honor to the Deity Saturn

Saturnalia Was Celebrated in Honor to Roman Deity Saturn

Saturnalia was celebrated in honor to Roman deity Saturn. Credits: witchesofthecraft.com

Saturnalia, which was celebrated on December 17th, is considered to be a forerunner of Christmas as we know it today. It is thought to be a forerunner of Christmas because the Romans used to give each other gifts, as well. Saturnalia was a celebration of the Roman God Saturn, the God of wealth, well-being and agriculture. The poet Catullus called it “the best of the days”.

Saturnalia Was a One-week Festival

The Romans Enjoyed Saturnalia. That's Why They Made It a One-Week Festival

The Romans enjoyed Saturnalia. That’s why they made it a one-week festival. Credits: freethoughtalmanac.com

Even though it began as a celebration of just one day, it soon proved so popular among the Romans that it ended up being celebrated for an entire week. Starting as a one-day holiday on December 17th, it then came to be a three-day, and finally one-week festival, ending on December 23rd. The Romans realized that the moments when they were enjoying themselves should last a bit longer. Saturnalia was an opportunity for people to relax, forget about their liabilities, celebrate their good fortune, eat good food, and have great sex.

Gambling Was Permitted During Saturnalia

Everything Was Permitted During Saturnalia, So Was Gambling

Everything was permitted during Saturnalia, so was gambling. Credits: pocketrome.wordpress.com

During the period of Saturnalia, Roman courts were closed, which led to the state of complete anarchy. No one was to be punished for damaging property or injuring someone during the festivity. In addition, a ban on gambling was lifted, which was one of the most severe infringements during the Romans’ rule. They called this festivity “Lord of Misrule”. The Romans strictly obeyed it, thereby believing they would destroy the dark forces.

Social Roles Were Inverted During Saturnalia

During Saturnalia, Children Became Parents and Masters Became Slaves Credits: thegrammarofmatter.wordpress.com

During Saturnalia, children became parents and masters became slaves. Credits: thegrammarofmatter.wordpress.com

In addition to the ubiquitous misrule during Saturnalia, all social positions changed. Those who had been masters throughout the year became slaves and vice versa. Strange as it may sound, but masters actually served their slaves during Saturnalia. They also had to give up on everything that made them masters such as clothes. Moreover, children were to act like their parents. This meant they were supposed to be loud and annoying, and even drink a glass of wine.

The Famous “Ho-ho-ho” Originated From Saturnalia

"Io Saturnalia" Is a Forerunner of "Ho-ho-ho"

“Io Saturnalia” is a forerunner of “Ho-ho-ho”. Credits: www.pinterest.com

“Io, Saturnalia” was a common way of salutation during this festivity. It was used for exclaiming positive and triumphant emotions during Saturnalia. Over time, “io” turned into “lo”. As the time was passing by, eventually this cheering sound became “ho”. So, when you hear that famous laughter of Santa Claus, remember that it was the Romans who “invented” this famous greeting.

Saturnalia Was A Perfect Time for Plotting

Cataline Used Saturnalia as a Distraction to Overthrow the Government

Cataline used Saturnalia as a distraction to overthrow the government. Credits: idmark.com

There is no doubt that Christmas makes people relaxed and free them from thinking about current affairs. This was also the case in the Roman Empire during Saturnalia. Many had tried to overthrow the government. They used the time of Saturnalia as a sort of distraction. One of the most famous conspirators Cataline had a plan of setting the city on fire. Fortunately, the plot was uncovered and stopped.

Saturnalia Became a Christian Holiday

There is Christmas Because of Saturnalia

There is Christmas because of Saturnalia. Credits: www.pinterest.com

In the 4th century, the Roman Church adopted Christianity, thus turning Saturnalia into Christmas. However, the symbols representative of Saturnalia had to be changed for the Christian ones. So, it was Jesus who was celebrated on Christmas, booze was replaced with eggs, and singing naked in the streets was replaced with modern caroling.


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