Definition of Saturnalia in English:



  • 1treated as singular or plural The ancient Roman festival of Saturn in December, a period of general merrymaking and the predecessor of Christmas.

    • ‘Some holiday rituals evolved from pre-Christian Saturnalia and so were often accompanied by rowdiness, drunkenness, and the shooting of firecrackers.’
    • ‘It is a cheerful pagan rite that can be traced at least as far back as the Saturnalia and Kalends of Roman times.’
    • ‘Romans adorned their homes with evergreens during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.’
    • ‘Christmas actually evolved from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which in turn came from an ancient Mithran holiday celebrating his birth.’
    • ‘And the Kalends of January grew even more important, outdoing the popular Saturnalia celebrated from December 17 to 24, when they were chosen as the day for consular inaugurations.’
    • ‘This had been, after all, originally their festival of light and of feasting, which they called Saturnalia, after Saturn, father of Pluto.’
    • ‘Chapter six presents many of Nero's more outrageous and extravagant actions as extensions and exaggerations of the festival of the Saturnalia as a time for jokes, merry-making, and the overthrowing of social conventions.’
    • ‘The prime metaphor of the Saturnalia was freedom from all bondage - the bondage of poverty, of wealth, of the laws and, above all, time.’
    • ‘Their essence is caught in Barber's notion of a saturnalian pattern, Saturnalia having been the Roman festival during which normal social hierarchy was inverted and masters waited on their servants.’
    • ‘Before the introduction of Christmas, each year beginning on December 17th Romans honored Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, in a festival called Saturnalia.’
    • ‘In Ancient Rome at the dark-of-the-winter festival of the Saturnalia, drunkenness was part of the general licence, and the reversal of normal sober (in every sense) behaviour.’
    1. 1.1 An occasion of wild revelry or indulgence.
      ‘a saturnalia of shopping’
      • ‘Even the counterculture and college saturnalias of the late 1960s did not corrupt my habits.’
      • ‘Here was the site of London's notorious May Fair, a drunken saturnalia from which the surrounding district now takes its name.’
      • ‘It's a Puritan's vision of hell, a cheesy market-driven saturnalia, pitched full-tilt now to the whole family.’
      • ‘But it never has the visceral thrill of those individual flashbacks, and the life there is never obviously building to final climactic saturnalia of violence.’
      • ‘His first year there coincided with the saturnalia of the Restoration as Charles II arrived in England with his mistress Barbara Villiers, the future Duchess of Cleveland.’
      • ‘Play involves both spontaneous excitement and a saturnalia of sorts.’
      • ‘The streets erupt in a saturnalia of lawlessness, to which the director adds an inspired touch: an escaped elephant from Barnum's circus trumpeting down the rubble-strewn streets.’
      wild party, debauch, carousal, carouse, revel, revelry, bacchanalia, bacchanal, saturnalia, dionysiacs
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Latin, literally ‘matters relating to Saturn’, neuter plural of Saturnalis.