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Saturnalia - The Ancient Time's Christmas

The festive season is a time of joy and celebration, marked by bright lights, carolers singing, and an abundance of festive food. Although Christmas is now celebrated as a major religious and cultural festival, it has a fascinating history that goes back several centuries. In ancient Roman times, another winter festival called Saturnalia was celebrated in mid-December that bears some similarities to the modern-day Christmas traditions.

Saturnalia was a week-long festival held in honor of the ancient Roman agricultural deity, Saturn. The festivities were marked by feasting, gift-giving, and crazy displays of energy, including role-reversals, where slaves were served by their masters. It was a time to let loose, socialize, and enjoy the company of friends and family. The festive decorations included wreaths of holly, ivy, and other greenery that remained an essential part of Renaissance and Victorian time Christmas decorations.

The inspiration for Christmas as we know it today can well be traced back to early Christian traditions. At the turn of the 4th century, Pope Julius I declared December 25 as the official date for Christmas, marking the day Jesus Christ was born according to the church's interpretation of the biblical texts. As Christianity gained ground, the festival came to be celebrated all over Europe.

One of the most iconic Christmas traditions that has evolved from Roman times is the decorated tree. The Christian roots of this tradition go back to 16th-century Germany, where people decorated trees with candles, cookies, and other treats to celebrate the winter solstice and remember the story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden of Eden. The decorated trees gained widespread popularity in England and the United States in the 19th century when royalty and affluent families adopted this custom to add a touch of luxury and grandeur to their celebrations.

Another ancient Rome-inspired tradition that remains popular is the exchange of gifts. While gift-giving was a part of Saturnalia celebrations, Christmas gifts, especially for children, became a prominent part of the festivities during medieval times. The concept of Santa Claus, however, is a distinctively modern addition to this tradition, starting from the Dutch legend Sinter Klass in the 17th century, which metamorphosed and evolved to the St. Nicholas we know today.

In conclusion, Christmas is a season that is steeped in history, culture and has come a long way from its Roman times origins. The various traditions we celebrate today, whether it's the decorated Christmas trees, Christmas carols, or presents under the tree, can be traced back to a bygone era, that embody our shared history. Although the festival has grown and transformed over time, looking back at its roots helps us cherish and understand the essence and meaning of Christmas, now and in the future. Merry Christmas!

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