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Brumalia was an ancient Roman Southern solstice festival honoring Cronus (Saturn) and Demeter (Ops), together with Bacchus, generally held on 24 December and possibly related to the ancient Greek Lenaia. The festival included drinking and merriment. The name, signifying "winter festivals", is derived from the Latin word bruma, meaning "shortest day" or even "winter". "They call them “Cronian festivals”—[1] and because of this the Church turns away from them," the Byzantine antiquarian John the Lydian, who described them in De mensibus, reported in the sixth century AD.[2]

The Brumalia was also celebrated during the space of thirty days, commencing on 24 November and ending with the "Waxing of the Light", December 25.[3] This observance was instituted by Romulus, who entertained the Senate during this time. During this feast, prophetic indications were taken of the prospects for the remaining part of the winter. According to Choricius of Gaza, Oration XIII, the festival was celebrated as late as the 6th century AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian I who otherwise persecuted paganism;[4]

It is also revived as a festival annually held by Connecticut College.


  1. ^ i.e. Saturnalia".
  2. ^ Roger Pearse, "A translation of John the Lydian, De Mensibus 4.158 (on December)"
  3. ^ Roger Pearse, "A translation of John the Lydian, De Mensibus 4.158 (on December)"
  4. ^ Robert Mazza, ‘Choricius of Gaza, Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian’, in Robert M. Frakes, Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, Justin Stephens (ed.), The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the early Islamic World (London/New York, Tauris Academic Studies, 2010), 172-193 (Library of Classical Studies, 2).