Chester's Roman Saturnalia Parade is joined by the Winter Watch

7 December 2015

Chester returns to Roman rule for one night only as soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion celebrate the Roman Saturnalia festival on Thursday 17 December. For the first time, The Winter Watch will be joining the Romans for a grand finale to the Christmas celebrations.

The Saturnalia parade will start at 7pm in Eastgate Street where torches will be lit and the Emperor makes his proclamation before releasing the Lord of Misrule.

Said Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Culture Leisure and Wellbeing: “This is the tenth year Chester’s Roman Tours has brought their Saturnalia Parade to the streets of Chester. It’s fitting for our Roman City to let the 20th Legion share their festival.

“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.” Adding to the spectacle, Chester’s Winter Watch Parade will be sharing the stage this year. They will join with the Romans in Town Hall Square and proceed around the city centre with City Watch Men, Angels, Devils, Fire Skeletons, Dragons and Cooks with their Victorian Christmas Dinner.

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

Saturnalia became 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 symbolised the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule. 

Photographs from last year’s Saturnalia parade.

Photographs from last year’s Saturnalia parade.
Photographs from last year’s Saturnalia parade.

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