Last Updated By Bill's Bible Basics :
February 16, 2017
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Latin SATURNUS, in Roman religion, the god of sowing or seed. The Romans equated him with the Greek agricultural deity Cronus. The remains of Saturn's temple at Rome, eight columns of the pronaos (porch), still dominate the west end of the Forum at the foot of the Clivus Capitolinus. It served as the treasury (aerarium Saturni) of the Roman state. Saturn's cult partner was the obscure goddess Lua, whose name is connected with lues (plague, or destruction); but he was also associated with Ops, another obscure goddess (perhaps of the earth's fertility), the cult partner of Consus, probably a god of the storage bin.
Saturn's great festival, the Saturnalia, became the most popular of Roman festivals, and its influence is still felt in the celebration of Christmas and the Western world's New Year. The Saturnalia was originally celebrated on December 17, but it was later extended to seven days. It was the merriest festival of the year: all work and business were suspended; slaves were given temporary freedom to say and to do what they liked; certain moral restrictions were eased; and presents were freely exchanged. The weekday Saturday (Latin Saturni dies) was named for Saturn.
One of the best-known festivals of ancient Rome was the Saturnalia, a winter festival celebrated on December 17-24. Because it was a time of wild merrymaking and domestic celebrations, businesses, schools, and law courts were closed so that the public could feast, dance, gamble, and generally enjoy itself to the fullest. December 25--the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light, and a day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after the Saturnalia--was adopted by the church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals