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Solstice Celebration

Saturnalia

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In Ancient Rome, the mythical age of Saturn's kingship was a golden age of happiness for all men, without theft or servitude, and without private property. Saturn, dethroned by his son Jupiter, had joined Janus as ruler in Italy, but when his time as earthly king was up, he disappeared. “It is said that to this day He lies in a magic sleep on a secret island near Britain, and at some future time ... He will return to inaugurate another Golden Age.”

Janus instituted the Saturnalia as a yearly tribute to his friend, Saturn. For mortals, the festival provided a yearly symbolic return to the Golden Age. It was an offense during this period to punish a criminal or start a war. The meal normally prepared only for the masters was prepared and served first to the slaves, and in further reversal of the normal order, it was served to the slaves by the masters. All people were equal and, because Saturn ruled before the current cosmic order, Misrule, with its lord (Saturnalia Princeps), was the order of the day.

Children and adults exchanged gifts, but the adult exchange became so great a problem -- the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer -- that a law was enacted making it legal only for richer people to give them to poorer.

According to Macrobius' Saturnalia, the holiday was originally probably only one day, although he notes an Atellan playwright, Novius, described it as being seven days. With Caesar's changing of the calendar, the number of days of the festival increased.

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