Remembering Saturnalia, The Badass Ancient Roman Precursor To Christmas

I don’t know about you, but this painting of Saturnalia looks infinitely more fun than my family’s Christmas party.

#1: Work Stopped For A Whole Week

Saturnalia came from humble beginnings.

#2: Saturnalia Was Basically The OG Boxing Day

Another December holiday, Boxing Day, can trace its roots to Saturnalia.

#3: Each Household Elected A Head “Mischief Maker” For The Week

The best part of Saturnalia is definitely the fact that many households would choose a mock king who got to lord it over the rest of the house for the week. Called the Saturnalicius princeps (the “leader of Saturnalia” or “Lord of Misrule”), this person’s sole job was to make mischief during the week (aka, the best job ever).

  • Insult guests!
  • Wear crazy clothing!
  • Chase people around the house!
  • Plan scandalous party entertainment!

#4: Saturnalia Feasts Were Out Of Control

Think of the most out-of-control holiday party you’ve ever been to, and then multiply that by ten.

#5: Santa Got His Catchphrase From Saturnalia

The traditional greeting on Saturnalia was “Io Saturnalia!” People would run through the streets calling “Io, Io, Io!”

From Lord Of Misrule To Yuletide Carols

Eventually, in 312 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine (the first Christian emperor) started the shift from Saturnalia to Christmas.



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