Christmas: A Pagan Holiday

Christmas: A Pagan Holiday

Bee Sackett, Reporter

The views expressed in this article belong to the reporter, and do not reflect the views held by Rockbridge County High School, the Prowler Staff, and its members.

Christmas is internationally recognized as a Christian holiday. For most, it is no more than that, but, as a matter of fact, is much more than that. Originally called Saturnalia, Christmas was a Pagan holiday in Ancient Rome. Celebrated from Dec. 17- 23 , Saturnalia was one huge party. Filled with non-stop celebrating, gift giving, and general merriment, Saturnalia was hugely favored by the pre-Christian populace. 

Before the advent of Christianity, Saturnalia was celebrated all throughout the Roman Empire, which was, needless to say, rather large. When Christianity became the official religion of Rome, Saturnalia was outlawed. After its banning, Christmas was created to take its place, so that the holiday season would still be merry.

Personally, I would love to go back to celebrating Saturnalia. A week of parties, games, and gifts, sounds like fun to me. Another detail about Saturnalia in Roman society was the involvement of slavery. The Romans had slaves, a lot of them, normally they would be forced to eat in a different room, with worse food, and to serve their masters’ every whim. During Saturnalia however, the slaves were allowed to eat at the same table as their masters, eat the same food, and in many cases, order their bosses around.

Saturnalia was also a very big gambling event, with innumerable dice games being played. The winner of the most games would be crowned the “Saturnalia King.” The Saturnalia King would be lauded and hailed as a ruler for the duration of the holiday, being carried about on a litter and receiving all manner of gifts, including free service in many restaurants.

All in all, Saturnalia was a wonderful holiday. A week of cheer and merriment ending with a city-wide feast sounds like an amazing time. Other than a few less than acceptable traditions (slavery and streaking), Saturnalia was full of fun and joy!