17 December: Saturnalia began on this day in ancient Rome

Had we been living in ancient Rome, today would have been a major festivity. The season is inclement (after all, these are the shortest days of the year) and the harvest is meagre. That’s why the period from 17th to 23rd December used to be days of liberty, revelling and topsy-turvy: gifts were exchanged, the masters would prepare banquets for their slaves who were even allowed to play dice (which was not permitted during the rest of the year).

Saturn was the god of sowing and so propitiatory processions were organised to ward off dead spirits that might otherwise jinx the harvest. The buzzword was merrymaking galore and, amidst the playing of cymbals and drums, carnival also kicked off. The masks worn had to be ghoulish enough to ward off the wandering spirits.

It seems that our ancestors had it down to a fine art to ensure Pandora’s proverbial box wouldn’t get opened up…

Name Day
St Daniel, Prophet