Our modern day Christmas celebration occurs around the same time as the ancient festival of Saturnalia, which, according to this website, became absorbed into the Christmas festivities about the fourth century AD.
According to the site:
In the Roman calendar, the Saturnalia was designated a holy day, or holiday, on which religious rites were performed. Saturn, himself, was identified with Kronos, and sacrificed to according to Greek ritual, with the head uncovered. The Temple of Saturn, the oldest temple recorded by the pontiffs, had been dedicated on the Saturnalia, and the woolen bonds which fettered the feet of the ivory cult statue within were loosened on that day to symbolize the liberation of the god. It also was a festival day. After sacrifice at the temple, there was a public banquet, which Livy says was introduced in 217 BC (there also may have been a lectisternium, a banquet for the god in which its image is placed in attendance, as if a guest). Afterwards, according to Macrobius (I.10.18), the celebrants shouted Io, Saturnalia at a riotous feast in the temple.
A couple paragraphs later we learn more about the festival:
During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, colorful dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted in public—as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season (Martial, Epigrams, XIV.1). Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters’ clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. In the Saturnalia, Lucian has the god’s priest declare that “During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside.”
As for the astrological Saturn, Café Astrology has a nice description:
In astrology, Saturn is associated with restriction and limitation. Where Jupiter expands, Saturn constricts. Although the themes of Saturn seem depressing, Saturn brings structure and meaning to our world. Saturn knows the limits of time and matter. Saturn reminds us of our boundaries, our responsibilities, and our commitments. It brings definition to our lives. Saturn makes us aware of the need for self-control and of boundaries and our limits.
It’s interesting that the festival of Saturnalia dismantles all that is Saturn – let’s forget our hierarchies (master/slave), our boundaries (clothing), our responsibilities (saving our money for necessities) and the drudgery of life on earth (work). In fact, Saturn talk (business) was completely banned.
Saturnalia is not about honoring Saturn but about putting Saturn in a closet for a good, solid week. Originally the festivities began on December 17 and lasted seven days. I suppose Saturnalia was the original vacation. Maybe we Americans are lucky to get two weeks now instead of just one.
Saturn Changes Signs
It seems quite relevant that on December 24, Christmas Eve, Saturn will change signs moving from the fixed water sign Scorpio to the mutable fire sign Sagittarius.
Two and half years of Scorpio meant Saturn focused on squeezing out every last bit of obsessive emotion from your being the way you squeeze every bit of water out of your wet bathing suit. We talked a lot about rape during this time as well. Rape is Scorpio in that it’s a crossing of the physical and emotional boundaries, but without consent. With consent, we call this intimacy.
The suit is dry, let’s move on.
If you’re a Sagittarius worried about this transit, here’s an FAQ for your reference. You might want to print it out and pin it to the wall since Saturn takes a couple years to move through a sign.
Sagittarius is about experience and finding meaning from those experiences. I’m wondering if December 24 this year won’t bring the Christians of the world a new religious experience. I sense a major shift, but don’t have any creative images on how that could manifest.
December 24 stands out as a meaningful day, more meaningful than normal. Saturn likes rules so maybe a new religious directive or proclamation from religious leaders will be issued.
Saturn is changing signs and it’s doing it on a holiday celebrated in the very beginning of Capricorn, the sign ruled by Saturn. Saturn is coming for Christmas.