Last Updated By Bill's Bible Basics :
February 16, 2017
Source: Encyclopedia Mythica
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.
Saturn - The Roman god of agriculture concerned with the sowing of the seeds. He is regarded as the father of Jupiter, Ceres, Juno and many others. His wife is the goddess Ops. Jupiter supposedly chased him away and he was taken in by the god Janus in Latium where he introduced agriculture and viniculture. This event heralded a period of peace, happiness and prosperity, the Golden Age.
In memory of this Golden Age, each year the Saturnalia was observed on December 17 at his temple on the Forum Romanum. This temple, below the Capitoline Hill, contained the Royal Treasury and is one of the oldest in Rome. The Saturnalia was one of the major events of the year. Originally only one day, it was later extended to seven days. During this festival, business was suspended, the roles of master and slaves were reversed, moral restrictions were loosened and gifts were exchanged. Offerings made in his honor were done with uncovered heads, contrary to the Roman tradition.
In contrast to his festival, Saturn himself was never very popular. From the 3rd century on, he was identified with the Greek Cronus, and his cult became only marginally more popular. That he ruled over the Golden Age is an extension to the Greek myth. Saturday is named after him