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古罗马广场上的萨图尔诺农神庙,意大利罗马 Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, Rome, Italy (© Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images)

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古罗马广场上的萨图尔诺农神庙意大利罗马 Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, Rome, Italy (© Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images)

When in Rome...celebrate Saturnalia

We're looking at the Temple of Saturn, one of the oldest structures of the Forum in Rome. It was here that ancient Romans began their celebrations of Saturnalia, which began on December 17. Both the temple and the festival are dedicated to the agricultural god Saturn, whose reign was associated with a golden age of prosperity and peace. Saturnalia festivities kicked off with a sacrifice at the temple, followed by a public banquet and a week of general merrymaking. Activities included gambling, eating, drinking, and playing music. Businesses and schools closed, and even slaves were free from work and allowed to participate in the merrymaking. Many Saturnalia customs evolved into Christmas traditions, such as gift-giving, decorating homes with wreaths, and drinking spiced wine.