Ancient Rome has always been synonymous with festivity merry making and riotous behaviour but the major festival of Saturnalia was hugely important. It began on 17 December and lasted for seven days. In honour of Saturn, the father of the gods and the god of agriculture and time it derived from older farming-related rituals of midwinter and the winter solstice.
Romans greeted each other with a hearty “Io Saturnalia!”
There would be sacrifices ,banqueting and gift giving. Law and order would be suspended, schools and businesses would close, and arguments ceased whilst celebrations ensued. People dressed in clashing colours that would have usually been ridiculed.Even slaves were not required to work and it was known that they could take the head of the table and be waited upon by their masters, later in Tudor England a very similar tradition was held called the custom of misrule. In both customs a mock king was responsible for making mischief during the celebrations—insulting guests, wearing crazy clothing, chasing women and girls with no fear of being cautioned.
The idea was that he ruled over chaos, rather than the normal Roman order. The custom of hiding a silver coin or dried pea in the pudding or cake is one of many dating back to Saturnalia, as this was a method of choosing the mock king.
Saturnalia celebrations seem to have incorporated many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas such as the offering of gifts and decorating homes with wreaths , greenery and candles, Wax taper candles called cerei were common during Saturnalia, to signify light returning after the solstice.
In the fourth century A.D. Western Christian churches celebrated Christmas on December 25, which allowed them to incorporate the holiday with Saturnalia and other popular pagan midwinter traditions perhaps in an effort to convince the remaining pagan Romans to accept Christianity as Rome’s official religion.
Twelfth night cake – the recipe
Twelfth Night cake celebrated the last day of the festive season on 5 January when there were great feasts, of which cake was an essential part.The punch called wassail was also a main feature of the feast on Twelfth Night and although enjoyed throughout Christmas time, door-to-door wassailing (similar to singing Christmas carols) commanded ‘figgy pudding’ ( or 12th night cake) and hot punch. It is considered unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night So the home should be cleaned and cleared ready for the Epiphany on 6th January which marks the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus.
Baked inside the cake were a dried bean and pea, one in one half and the other. Not to be confused with a standard Christmas cake, this cake had a quirky significance attached to it. Baked inside the cake were a dried bean and pea, one in one half and the other in the second half. As visitors arrived to the feast they were given a slice of cake, ladies from the left and gentleman from the right. Whoever found the bean became King of the Revels for the night and the Queen was found with the pea, gaining power to instruct all to their heart’s content. the second half.
- Butter – softened to room temperature 200g
- Dark muscovado sugar 200g
- Plain flour200g
- Eggs – 4x beaten
- Ground almond 50g
- Sherry, sweet or dry 100ml
- Candied peel, roughly chopped 85g
- Glacé cherries – roughly chopped 85g
- Raisins 250g
- Currants 250g
- Lemon zest from 1 lemon finely grated
- Mixed spice1½ tsp
- Ground cinnamon 1 tsp
- Ground nutmeg ½ tsp
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Icing of your choice: pre-made royal or buttercream
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Dried bean and a dried pea
- Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas
- Line the base and sides of a 20 cm round, 7.5 cm deep cake tin.
- Beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer for 1-2 mins until very creamy and pale in colour, scraping down the sides of the bowl half way through.
- Stir in a spoonful of the flour, then stir in the beaten egg and the rest of the flour alternately, a quarter at a time, beating well each time with a wooden spoon. Stir in the almonds.
- Mix in the sherry (the mix will look curdled), then add the peel, cherries, raisins, cherries, lemon zest, spices and vanilla. Beat together to mix, then stir in the baking powder.
- Don’t forget to add in your dried bean and pea!
- Spoon mixture into the tin and smooth the top, making a slight dip in the centre.
- Bake for 30 mins, then lower temperature to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2 and bake a further 2-2¼ hours, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin, then take out of the tin and peel off the lining paper.
- When completely cold, wrap well in cling film and foil to store until ready to decorate. The cake will keep for several months
- I like to decorate with simple icing and a crown for the king tower but it is all a matter of personal choice.
Dog in Scotland eats Christmas dinner
Curious news from Scotland, a chi apso dog, a breed of Tibetan dogs named Bubba, has eaten the whole turkey that was to be eaten at Christmas by the family.
Bubba walked into the kitchen on Christmas Eve and quietly ate the bird, which had been wrapped in tinfoil and left under a tea towel on the counter.
The dog then collapsed to the ground, unable to move after such a large meal. # A photo of Bubba lying on his side has been shared thousands of times on social media.
The photograph was posted on Twitter by owner David Barrett, who lives in Prestwick, Scotland and hasn’t eaten turkey this Christmas. Bubba might not eat one ever again though.
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