Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ancient Fact of the Day: Romans Partied Hard in December

The ancient Romans celebrated so many holidays it's a wonder the empire didn't fold in on itself from over-partying. December in particular was fairly bursting with celebrations:

December 11--the holiday glut began with the Agonalia, a festival so old, even the Romans weren't exactly sure what it was about. Except for the sacrifice of a ram. Everyone agreed the ram must die.

December 15--next was the Consualia, a festival to honor the god Consus, protector of grains and underground storage. The first part of the Consualia took place in August, but it came around again in December. The holiday also honored horses and mules by giving them the day off. Except for those that were forced to race each other at the circus in honor of their day off.

December 17--the Saturnalia was the midwinter celebration that involved conical hats, gift-giving, decking the halls with boughs, gambling and lots of drinking. It started out as a single day of celebration but over the centuries turned into a week-long party. Io Saturnalia!

December 19--in the midst of Saturnalia partying, one had to take a break to celebrate the mother goddess, Ops with the Opalia festival. Because she said so.

December 21--the Divalia came after that, because the goddess Angerona wanted a piece of the action.  The pontifices (priests) sacrificed at her temple, sometimes also called the temple of Voluptas, the goddess of sensual pleasures. No word on what else they did in the temple of the goddess of bliss.

December 23--the Larentalia honored the household god, Lares, who protected the house and family. It also honored the woman who fostered Romulus and Remus though some say it was actually a celebration of Larenta, a prostitute called "Lupa" (she-wolf) who donated the fortune she amassed from her "career" to the Roman state.

December 25--celebrated the Persian god Mithras's birthday. Mithras was also known as Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun). The emperor Aurelius turned the 25th into a public festival of the new sun.

Clearly, December's craziness has a long and storied history. So, do like the Romans and party on!


Karen Strong said...

That is a LOT of partying. What a mega nap they probably needed after all of that.

Gilly said...

Hmm . . . looks a little bit like the Jewish calendar in Sept./Oct, but with more prostitution and horse racing and gambling.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

You know I need this - thank you! And Par-TAY! :) e

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Party on Karen and e! Gilly, that comment is hysterical!!!!

Anonymous said...

Typo: Sol Invectus -> Sol Invictus

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, Anon--about to fix.