The Saturnalia were initially only a Roman feast day in honor of the god Saturn, who was regarded as the ruler of the primeval golden age. It was originally celebrated as EN- day on December 17 and moved to the Julian calendar reform the daily character to NP status. The Saturnalia found only after 45 BC as a multi-day festival between December 17 and 23 application, however, was later extended until December 30.

The date goes back to the founding date of the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum back.

The celebrations began with a sacrifice before the temple of Saturn and a public feast. Public institutions were closed during the Saturnalia. The temple organized public feeds. It was customary to give gifts to the Saturnalia.

The most important aspect of the Saturnalia was the abolition of class distinctions, even slaves were treated on that day by their masters as equals, in part, the roles were even ( jokingly ) reversed so that the men served their slaves. It was chosen a Saturnalia Prince ( Saturnalicus princeps), partly this was also called rex Bibendi ( " Drinking King "). This name also points to the strong increase in wine consumption over the festive period. Not only the wine was drunk during the festive season to a large extent, it was also officially the dice game allows for money. Even otherwise, the morality loosened considerably during the holidays.

In some German universities (for example, Cologne and Kiel) are now traditional " Saturnalia " was held as a student celebration in which one " settles " in the run up to Christmas with the lecturers.