We have almost reached the turn of the year and I am reflecting on what has been a challenging time for many. Nor does it look like things are improving, with new lockdowns, tiers, rules and guidance. It is not easy to keep track of what we can and cannot do. Wherever you are, I hope this finds you safe and well.
In the spring, when the pandemic took hold in the UK and Ireland, all social activities were cancelled. Thanks to the internet, many of these activities found new life in an online format.
For my part, I already had a few international students but I moved lessons with my local students online. With the power of social media, my student list has grown with learners from as far afield as China, Australia, Canada and USA. In July, a successful summer school continued to spread the love of ancient languages around the world.
Thank you all for your friendship and support in 2020. Wishing you good health and happiness, whether or whatever you are celebrating, and I look forward to working with you in 2021.
Saturnalia was a Roman festival celebrated on (the equivalent of) 17th December honouring Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing. This mid-winter festival lasted for between 3 and 7 days, depending on who was in charge at the time.
During the celebrations, restrictions were relaxed and serious activities were barred. Gambling was permitted in public and chariot racing took place. Conservative clothes were replaced by brightly coloured fabrics such as red, purple and gold.
Some Saturnalia activities which might sound familiar include gift-giving, and wearing a cap called a pilleum – we pull Christmas crackers and it is obligatory in our house to wear your party hats for the duration of the meal! Candles were exchanged and sometimes hung in greenery as decoration, and holly would be brought inside the house to honour Saturn.
The social order was inverted and slaves did not have to work. At mealtimes masters waited on their slaves, and adults waited on children.
In addition to feasting in their homes, a huge public feast took place in the temple of Saturn in Rome. Macrobius reports that rowdy participants at this public event would shout to each other, “Io Saturnalia!”