Traditional gifts included wax taper candles, oil lamps, terracotta figurines, and silver.
I wouldn't mind any of the above! Tho if you do shop for me, please keep it local! ;)
I've been reading about more than Roman practices this year- I'm about as familiar with Saturnalia as I can be. What I've been learning more about is the ancient Sumerian practices and festivals surrounding the transition to winter and from old year to new year. This includes the role of Marduk, the festival of Zagmuk, and the ongoing battle with the forces of chaos who, at winter, eat the sun. Omnom.
From Eric Zorn's Chicago Tribune blog:
A cynic with more energy than I have ought to create "Marduk is the reason for the season" banners in honor of the beloved Zagmuk story.
Marduk was said to have conquered the monster of chaos, Tiamat, and thus paved the way for creation. But, every year, alas, the monster fought back, the fields went barren, the days got shorter and life itself hung in the balance.
The 12-day, late December Zagmuk throw down, then, was replete with rituals believed to help Marduk win his annual battle with Tiamat, and then to celebrate the return of light.
Here's a fun account of Zagmuk! His play by play is happily snarky :)
Zagmuk was the 12-day Mesopotamian winter solstice festival. It's the first winter solstice festival that humans have recorded in history.That's what I'm talk in 'bout!
Marduk, the god of growing things, had (just like last year) gotten himself imprisoned in the underworld, and in his absence the gods of chaos were slowly devouring the sun. This "explains" why the days were getting shorter after the vernal equinox and why this festival was particularly important. It was about continuing to exist. To make sure the sun would come back and give life to the growing things, Babylon didn't just lament and hope, they did something about it.