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Christmas a Modern Celebration

Published November 26, 2007        by Matt

The Saturnalia of ancient Rome was a time to feast, much as Christmas is in Italy today. The feasts, the games, the gift giving, the music, and the religious rituals are all very much part of the December festival season in modern Rome, much as they were in antiquity. This has not changed in over two thousand years.

Modern Ritual: Foods For Saturnalia

Here are some traditional Saturnalia recipes prepared by the women of ancient Rome. Enjoy them this festival season.

Hon Eyed Dates (serves 10)

"Pit the dates and stuff them with walnuts or even pine nuts .... Roll them in a little salt and fry them with honey. Serve."

  • 1 pound dried dates
  • Walnuts, 1 for each date
  • Salt, as needed
  • Honey, as needed

Use good-quality dates (they should not be sticky and the skins should not come off easily). Pit them by making a cut on one side. Fill each cavity with a walnut. Roll them lightly in salt and cook them in honey in a skillet until they are caramelized. As soon as the dates are carmelized, put them on a lightly oiled plate to prevent sticking. Serve.


  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ cup semolina flour
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Mix ricotta with the semolina in a medium-sized bowl. Beat the egg and stir into the mixture. Add salt and mix well.

Pour enough oil in a pan to cover the Globi. about an inch, and heat the oil.

Drop the dough in teaspoonfuls into the heated oil, and fry until brown. Remove and drain well on a paper towel. Dip in honey and serve. Globi can also be dipped in salsa or other sauces.

December's rituals bring promise. For Christians it is the promise of salvation and a better life with the birth of the Christ Child. For the pagan Romans, it was the promise of the Golden Age and the Rule of Saturn. It is the promise of a spiritual life, a life blessed and in accord with the deities.

Saturn harkens back to the Golden Age, an age of piety. It is for this age we must now hope. At the millennium, we begin the New Order of the Ages. For spiritual guidance, we can learn from the gods and goddess the ancient practices. As Saturn asks, "Who would bring incense to my smoking altars?"

The first age was golden when authority was not needed. Men and women revered justice and virtue. They kept faith.