Did you know Christmas dates back to Roman times? Want to find out more? You could do worse than head down to the British Museum this Sunday (Dec 6) then, where popular children’s writer Caroline Lawrence will head up a day of Roman fun based around the ancient festival of Saturnalia, aptly named ‘A Roman Christmas‘. Visitors can get stuck into music, quizzes and prizes – and enjoy a talk and book signing from the author of Roman Mysteries, which has also been made into a CBBC series.
Tickets are priced at 5 for the event which starts at 1pm in the museum’s BP Lecture Theatre, with Young Friends getting in for just 3.50. According to the museum Roman dress is welcome, so don’t be surprised if you spot a few centurions wandering the streets of Bloomsbury that afternoon! The Roman Mysteries book series has been a hit with readers and reviewers across the nation since its first outing in 2001.
Stories take place in the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Titus, and are largely based in Ostia, a port town of Rome – but other mysteries take place in Pompeii, Egypt, Turkey and other ancient cities. Riddles are solved by four children named Nubia, Flavia Gemina, Jonathan ben Mordecai and Lupus. So far there are 17 books in the series.
Saturnalia was a Roman festival to celebrate Saturn, the god of agriculture and the harvest. Beginning on December the 17th and running for an entire week the festival was notorious for its heavy drinking, eating and reversal of social roles, in which slaves were supposed to become masters. The dating of the festival has meant it has been linked by many scholars to the Christian day of Christmas, when Jesus’ birth is celebrated. Yet these theories have never been fully substantiated. Still, it’s a good excuse for a yuletide party at the BM, eh?