Saturnalia: The Ancient Roman Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I am excited to celebrate this holiday with two of my favorite things: feasting and volunteering! While Thanksgiving references American-specific events, the notion of celebrating the harvest through giving and feasting dates all the way back to ancient Romans.
In ancient Roman mythology, Saturnus was the God of seeds and sowing (the Latin word being satus) and was representative of the plantings and harvests that took place in autumn. For the Romans, the harvest practices normally ended by the beginning of December, at which point the citizens honored Saturnus with a week-long festival. Starting roughly around December 17th, the Saturnalia festival was the most popular holiday in the Roman Calendar due to the joy it brings!
On the first day, the festival begins with a sacrifice to Saturnus along with a massive feast for the entire village, including the slaves. After the first day, the festival was famous for inverting social constructs and granting freedom to all citizens to allow the festival to be enjoyed equally. Even Catullus described this time as "the best of days" due to the merriment that the holiday brought with events free from societal pressures..
With this in mind, we must remember to keep these notions in mind when we enter the "holiday season." With the upcoming flurry of shopping trips and gift wrapping sessions, remember to appreciate the giving nature of Thanksgiving and to share what you have with those who might not be as fortunate.
Stay tuned for the best ways to volunteer this Thanksgiving!