Saturnalia and Santa -- it's no coincidence they resemble one another.
The World (Dec. 24, 2009)
The Saturnalia was officially celebrated on December 17 (a.d. XVI Kal. Ian.) and, in Cicero's time, lasted seven days, from December 17-23. Augustus limited the holiday to three days so the civil courts would not have to be closed any longer than necessary. And Caligula extended it to five (Suetonius, XVII; Cassius Dio, LIX.6), which Claudius restored after it had been abolished (Dio, LX.25).
Still, everyone seems to have continued to celebrate for a full week, extended, says Macrobius (I.10.24), by celebration of the Sigillaria, so named for the small earthenware figurines that were sold then. More>>
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