This time of year
in every age was viewed by all classes of the community as a period of absolute relaxation and unrestrained merriment (from Lacus Curtius)
Methinks not much has changed in the intervening two millennia.
While many will argue that it cannot be proven Saturnalia eventually gifted (hehe) any characteristics to Christmas, here are a few striking similarities:
- Practiced at approximately the same time of year. Saturnalia was eventually celebrated from about December 17th through the 23rd. The winter solstice was a rich time for many festivals and celebrations throughout the world.
- Gift giving. Though I like the rule that at the end of Saturnalia, during the Sigillaria, the gifts were supposed to have no ‘value.’ They should have a personal value between the gift-giver and gift-receiver, but not an objective value. If you gave someone gold, etc., it was a serious faux-pas.
- The (re)birth of the sun. I don’t want to dig too deep into this one, however many historians of even the Catholic Church (among others) acknowledge it is not likely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. And there was no year 0 – just had to clear that up.
- Singing, general merriment, and festive good-cheer were required! Though, in all fairness, many festivals were happy times.
- Slaves got time off to have fun and be the master for a change. And then the festival ended and everything went back to being sucky.
So, no matter what your religious affiliation: Enjoy the day off work.