Bona Dea: Rites to Bona Dea were conducted on a variable date near the beginning of December by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome, assisted by the Vestal Virgins. They were conducted in the magistrate's home, not at Bona Dea's temple. Participation was by invitation only and men were strictly excluded.
Saturnalia: "The best of days" according to the poet Catullus begins on the 17th and continues to the 23rd. Saturnalia is the festival honoring Saturnus, who introduced agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was the season when agricultural work was completed; a sort of joyous Thanksgiving-type holiday of relaxation and merriment. During Saturnalia, businesses, courts and schools were closed. Learn more from the Saturnalia post.
Sol Invictus: 25th. Did a festival in honor of the sun form the basis of Christmas celebrations? Pope Leo I said there was no connection, but the New Catholic Encyclopedia says there is. It is clearly a vexed question and not a concern of ours. We do know that Sol had several temples in early Rome, so it is fitting that we honor Sol at some time. While it is true that other gods also were sometimes called "Invictus" (Undefeated), that does not prevent us from making the association of the Undefeated Sun with the beginning of the northward return of the sun, clearly visible on the 25th, several days after the winter solstice. Romans decorated living trees outdoors, and so can we, topping our trees with a sun, a symbol of our gratitude for his warmth.
Compitalia: The Compitalia is a feria conceptiva, a festival whose day was set annually by the magistrates or priests. The Compitalia was always in the winter, from a few days after the Saturnalia (Dionysus) to early January (the 2nd, says Cicero in a letter).
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Saturnalia Events Worldwide
12th December: Aquincum Museum, Budapest, Hungary. More information.
16th December: Roman Saturnalia Parade, Chester, Cheshire, UK. 16 December. More Information.
18th December: Temple Of Venus Genetrix, Nashville TN, USA. Saturnalia Festival and Opalia. $20.00 per person. More information.
See the Meetup Everywhere map for more events!