Chester will celebrate its ancient past on Thursday, December 18, as soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion celebrate the Roman Saturnalia festival.
The parade, part of Chester’s Christmas celebrations, starts at the Grosvenor Museum at 6.30pm. Soldiers will march to Eastgate Street where torches are lit and the Emperor makes his proclamation before releasing the Lord of Misrule.
Executive member for culture and economy Cllr Stuart Parker said: “The Saturnalia Parade is organised and performed by Chester’s Roman Tours Ltd, who bring back the parade for the ninth consecutive year and is a great spectacle.
“I would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year to residents and the many visitors who have enjoyed this year’s Christmas events and activities.”
Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. The festival was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on December 17 but it was so popular it was extended to a week, from December 17-23.
One of the most popular Roman festivals, it was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of roles, with slaves and masters switching places. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolized the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly translated as Lord of Misrule.
The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days - a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria).
To get an idea of what to expect, view our gallery of the 2013 event: