These days we celebrate Saturnalia. This is the Roman name for this holiday, in honor of the deity Saturn. But it was celebrated before, all around the world. The winter solstice signals the middle of winter, the shortest day of the year, and it occurs, depending on one’s position on the globe, between days 20 and 22 December (in Northern Hemisphere, on June for Southern Hemisphere).
|Sunrise in Stonehenge on Winter Solstice – Author: Mark Grant|
This was a very important event for ancient communities because famine was common during the winter, and so the winter solstice marked a time of celebration. The rituals were different from a place to another, but it was a time of rejoice and celebrations in everywhere. Nowadays we continue that tradition with our familiar meetings and banquets.
For example, here Laura Poppick shows six ancient sites that are tributes to the winter solstice: Stonehenge (England), Newgrange (Ireland), Maeshow (Scotland), Goseck Circle (Germany), Tulum (Mexico) and Stone lines at Cerro del Gentil pyramid, Peru.
|Goseck Enclosure – Wikimedia Commons|
Oh, also I heard something about a guy who was born on this day, or at least someone (named Pope Julius I) decided to tell that tale on 350 AD, 350 years later that the alleged birth (How December 25 came to be Christmas). It wasn’t coincidence to choose this day, pagan celebrations were often adapted by other communities like this one. As Saturnalia was a very popular festival in that age and couldn’t be suppressed, it was simply replaced by other one.
But that event is less relevant, in my opinion. Every day someone is born.
Anyway, Merry Saturnalia for everyone!