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Happy Saturnalia (barely)

Thomas Whitley

Saturnalia is the feast with which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. It was traditionally on December 17 and over time it got extended to run from December 17 to 23.

Christmas has a distinct relation to Saturnalia.

Christians in the fourth century assigned December 25 (the Winter Solstice on the Julian calendar) as Christ’s birthday (and thus Christmas) because pagans already observed this day as a holiday. As the dates of Saturnalia are not precisely coincident with Christmas, a more refined argument is that Christmas was set on the feast of Sol Invictus, which was on December 25, and which had supplanted Saturnalia. However, with many of the traditions of Saturnalia incorporated into Sol Invictus, it is possible that some of those traditions — such as the exchanging of gifts — were also carried forward as a part of the Christian holiday.


Saturnalia ends in less than a few hours. I hope it was a great festival for you.

Now we turn to Christmas. I hope that is wonderful and merry for you as well.

Happy Saturnalia (barely).