In Ancient Rome the winter solstice festival of Saturnalia began today (December 17). It was a festival that lasted for seven days.
Created to honor Saturn, the father of the gods, it was interestingly celebrated by suspending discipline and a reversal of the usual order.
It was said that it was a time to suspend grudges. Businesses, courts and schools were closed. It is said that even warfare was suspended for the week.
Want to celebrate Saturnalia? If you need another reason to have a party, here are some suggestions from the Romans. Masquerades were common. Traditional gifts were real or imitation fruit (fertility), dolls (symbolic of the custom of human sacrifice), and candles (small symbols of pagan solstice bonfire celebrations).
I have read that a mock king would be chosen. It would probably be a slave or criminal. It sounds like a good thing, since this king was able to run wild for the week. Unfortunately, the king was usually killed at the end.
As with much of the Roman empire, Saturnalia degenerated into a week of debauchery and crimes. Today the word “saturnalia” means a period of unrestrained license and revelry.
You can go out this week and look to the sky and see Saturn. In the Northern Hemisphere, if you look to the constellation Gemini which rises above the eastern horizon, a bit west of Gemini is the brilliant planet Jupiter looking like a star to most people. Just before sunrise, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury appear above the southeastern horizon.