It may not have been Christmas exactly, but the ancient Roman Saturnalia (17th-23rd. December) was certainly an opportunity for feasting and gift-giving. Over the years, this time of merry-making, sacrifices and gift-giving expanded to a week and the poet Catullus - who knew a thing or two about parties - called it 'the best of days'.
In many ways this ancient festival was rather like Christmas:
Schools were on holiday.
Gambling was allowed.
Shopping at special markets was encouraged.
Holiday clothes were worn - the informal, colourful 'dining clothes' instead of the plain, bulky toga.
Presents were given - parrots, wax candles, dice, combs, perfumes, little pottery dolls.
Feasting was indulged, with Saturn himself in charge as Lord of Misrule.
People wished each other a merry Saturnalia with the evocation, 'io Saturnalia!' ('Yo Saturnalia!')
The Pompeiian partygoers in the picture come from the BBC's Ancient Rome pages.
My historical romance, 'Flavia's Secret' is set in Roman Britain and has its climax during the Saturnalia. As a possible early Christmas present, Bookstrand have Flavia's Secret on offer as a free ebook from now until Valentine's Day. If you haven't tried one of my books yet, here's a chance!
For details of the book and the free download, go to: