Saturday, December 17, 2011

An advent calendar of sorts Day 17. Yo! Saturnalia.

December 17 was the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which has given rise to many of the traditions associated with Christmas today.

The Roman god Saturn
For example, there was always a huge feast at which masters and slaves changed places, with the masters serving the slaves. There is an echo of this custom in the Royal Navy, where officers serve the lower ranks their dinner on Christmas Day.

The day was a public holiday and even schools were closed. Gifts were exchanged and everyone was supposed to have fun. Everyone wore their best clothes and togas - a symbol of rank - were forbidden. Instead everybody wore the 'freedman' hat.

A Saturnalian prince was chosen from among the youngest members of the family and he ruled over the rest for the day. 

The correct greeting was 'Io, Saturnalia!' (Meaning Ho - praise to Saturn.)  It was pronounced Yo. 

So... Yo! Saturnalia to you all.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anne .. always interesting to learn these old customs ..

Yo Saturnalia .. to you too - cheers Hilary

snafu said...

Yo dudes! I think the officers serving the men is not just a naval tradition, other services do or did that too, but the navy has odd traditions. They would not let me into HMS Gangese,a building which is entierly on dry land, whenever the tide was out.

Poohtle said...

I'm loving your daily advent news. Army officers also used to serve infantry soldiers on duty on Christmas day. :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy learning how traditions evolve. I'm currently reading a biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he discussed the wisdom of the early Church in incorporating ancient mythical traditions in its calendar.

Sandra Davies said...

So that carol, the chorus of which is "and io io io" should be sung "and yo yo yo"? ;-)

MorningAJ said...

Hi all - thanks for your comments.

I really hadn't thought of the io io io thing - but maybe it should! Nice one Sandra.

Kathy said...

I love the way Christmas has its roots in these ancient festivals! Thanks for dropping in over on my blog!