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Happy Saturnalia!

Did you know that the historical roots of Christmas are the Kronia-festivities in ancient Greece which were a celebration of the Golden Age where all men were supposed to have been equal because the richness of nature made work unnecessary? During the Kronia "slaves and the free, rich and poor, all dined together and played games" (quote from the article linked to below).

Dice players. Roman fresco from the Osteria della Via di Mercurio (VI 10,1.19, room b) in Pompeii.

The Kronia heavily influenced the Roman Saturnalia where gift-giving became a vital part of the festivities. Since the egalitarian theme was still as strong as ever, showing off with too valuable gifts was considered rude. Instead, gifts were commonly figures of clay or wax (sigillaria) which everyone could afford. Another symbol of the egalitarian spirit of the festivities was that both slaves (which wasn't supposed to) and free men (which didn't have to) wore the pilleus: a conical, red felt cap which was normally the mark of a freedman.

A Byzantine Roman (526AD) mosaic from Ravenna showing the "Three Kings" wearing red  pilleÄ« as they bring their frankincense, myrrh, and gold to the infant Jesus.

You can read more about Kronia here:

And the Saturnalia here:


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