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Saturnalia – the predecessor of Christmas

As part of the Natalis Notabilis event which is being held this week in Rabat, Heritage Malta is inviting the public to visit the Domvs Romana at the discounted admission fee of €2 per person. Visitors will also have access to new information related to the ancient Roman festival known as Saturnalia – the predecessor of Christmas.

The small museum of the Domus Romana is built around the remains of a rich, aristocratic Roman town house (domus) which was accidentally discovered in 1881. Although very little remains of the house itself, the intricate mosaics which survived for centuries, as well as the artefacts found within the remains, are testimony enough of the original richness and story of this remarkable abode.

At the Domvs Romana, visitors can get a glimpse of life in a Roman domestic household, with aspects ranging from the actual division of roles in a Roman family, to fashion, education, entertainment, food and drink.

The museum holds an interesting collection of common and imported household items used, as well as a set of marble statues portraying the Emperor Claudius and his family.

This year, visitors can also explore some of the ancient Roman traditions connected to the Saturnalia.

This ancient Roman festival was celebrated in honour of the god Saturn which was the god of sowing or seed. Originally held on December 17 of the Julian calendar, festivities were later expanded up to December 23. This was a period of general merrymaking and eventually it became recognised as the predecessor of Christmas.

The Domus Romana is open today from 9am to 10.30pm. For more information, visit Heritage Malta’s website on www.heritagemalta.org

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