Definition of Saturnalia in English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The prime metaphor of the Saturnalia was freedom from all bondage - the bondage of poverty, of wealth, of the laws and, above all, time.’
    • ‘This had been, after all, originally their festival of light and of feasting, which they called Saturnalia, after Saturn, father of Pluto.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Christmas actually evolved from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which in turn came from an ancient Mithran holiday celebrating his birth.’
    • ‘Romans adorned their homes with evergreens during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.’
    • ‘It is a cheerful pagan rite that can be traced at least as far back as the Saturnalia and Kalends of Roman times.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Before the introduction of Christmas, each year beginning on December 17th Romans honored Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, in a festival called Saturnalia.’
    • ‘Some holiday rituals evolved from pre-Christian Saturnalia and so were often accompanied by rowdiness, drunkenness, and the shooting of firecrackers.’
    1. 1.1An occasion of wild revelry.
      • ‘Even the counterculture and college saturnalias of the late 1960s did not corrupt my habits.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Here was the site of London's notorious May Fair, a drunken saturnalia from which the surrounding district now takes its name.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's a Puritan's vision of hell, a cheesy market-driven saturnalia, pitched full-tilt now to the whole family.’
      • ‘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.