The popular festival that honors Saturn (Saturnus), the Saturnalia is held for seven days starting December 17. Saturnalia celebrates the Golden Age of Saturn’s rule, which was a time of peace, prosperity, and happiness. As a God, Saturn is many things – the God of Agriculture, God of the Abundant Earth, and Father of the Gods. From the 3rd Century (CE), Saturn became known as “Father Time.”
Since Saturn’s temple was also the state treasury of Rome, the Romans bound the feet of his statue. This was to ensure that Saturn did not leave and take prosperity with Him. However, at the beginning of Saturnalia, his feet were unbound, and then rebound at the end of the festival. For Saturnalia of today, his feet are still unbound, and later rebound to keep prosperity in the home.
Many of the Christmas customs of today have been adopted from Saturnalia. Cheerfulness and goodwill ruled this time. People lit candles, gave presents, and feasted together. They also wore pillei, which resembles today’s Santa hats.
For Saturnalia, I decorate my home in red and gold, traditional Roman colors, and place evergreens about. Every day of the festival, I light candles for the morning and the evening. For fun, I bake cookies for my family to enjoy. We watch old movies together.
“Saturnus, Great King of ancient starry skies and earth primeval, under Your peaceful reign, never was anyone’s tranquility disturbed by labor.” (Martial 12.62.1)