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Chester Christmas parades reflect city's history

Roman Saturnalia Parade and Medieval Winter Watch to brighten city streets

The Roman Saturnalia and Winter Watch parades will take place on Thursday, December 15

Chester’s Roman history will come to life on Thursday with the annual Saturnalia parade through the city streets.

Soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion will celebrate the ancient Roman festival on Thursday, December 15 alongside the medieval Winter Watch Parade.

The parade will start at 7pm with the soldiers marching through temporary gates under the 

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Torches will be lit and the Emperor Domitian will make a proclamation before releasing the Lord of Misrule.

Chester's Jubilee Gates will feature in the city's Festival of Saturnalia

Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. It was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on December 17 but it was so popular it extended to a week, from December 17 to 23 despite Augustus’ efforts to reduce it to three days, and Caligula’s, to five.

The popular festival was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of roles, with slaves and masters switching places. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolised the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, which roughly translates as the Lord of Misrule.

Russell Kirk as The Lord of Misrule in the Winter Watch Parade(Image: David Sejrup )

Cabinet member for communities and wellbeing councillor Louise Gittins said: “We hand the city back to the Roman’s for the final festive parade. It’s fitting for our Roman City to let Chester Roman Tours share their festival.

“Adding to the spectacle, the Winter Watch Parade will be sharing the stage, joining with the Romans in Town Hall Square to process around the city centre with City Watch Men, angels, devils, fire skeletons, dragons and cooks with their Victorian Christmas dinner.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year to all our residents and the many visitors who have enjoyed this year’s Christmas events and activities.”

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