Monday, February 2, 2009

Saturnalia

The Saturnalia, a national festival held in December in honour of Saturn, was celebrated after the ingathering of the harvest, and lasted several days.

It was a time of universal rejoicing, cessation from labour, and merry-making. School children had holidays, friends sent presents to each other, the law-courts were closed, and no business was transacted.

Crowds of people from the surrounding country flocked to Rome for this festival attired in every variety of masquerade dress; practical jokes were given and received with the utmost good humour, shouts of exultation filled [201]the air, all classes abandoned themselves to enjoyment, and unrestrained hilarity reigned supreme. Social distinctions were for a time suspended, or even reversed; and so heartily was the spirit of this festival entered into, that masters waited upon their slaves at banquets which they provided for them; the slaves being dressed upon these occasions in the garments of their masters.

There appears little doubt that the modern Carnival is a survival of the ancient Saturnalia.

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