Chester’s Saturnalia parade welcomes back the Romans

Chester’s final festive parade on Thursday 15 December starts at 6.30pm with Chester’s Deva Victrix 20th Legion taking back control of their city as Chester Roman Tours celebrates Saturnalia.

The city will be under Roman occupation for one night as it moves back in time to 47/48 AD with the Roman Legion soldiers marching through the city with flaming torches.

The parade leaves the Grosvenor Museum at 6.30pm after arriving in Eastgate Street the Emperor Domitian will address his subjects.

“Let none of you be mistaken, the Romans are still here, at certain times of the year you will see us marching once more through our fortress.

“Remember who and what I am. I am a sword that sings in the dark. I am the sound of a legion marching to war. I am the axe that thuds into your scull. I am accuser, judge and executioner. I am Imperator. I am a living God. I am Caesar. I am Rome”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said, “The shouts of ‘Lo Saturnalia’ signal our very own Roman Tours to complete the Christmas parades.  

“The Winter Watch parade will join forces with the Roman Saturnalia parade, at the Christmas Market in Town Hall Square with the two parades marching through the city centre. I’d like to thank Chester Roman Tours for sharing their festive parade and to the many performers and volunteers who have entertained us over the past two months.”

Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. Saturnalia was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on December 17, but it was so popular it extended to a week, from the 17 to 23 December, despite Augustus’ efforts to reduce it to three days, and Caligula’s, to five.

Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of roles, with slaves and masters switching places. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolised the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule.

Following the release of Chester’s Lord of Misrule at the Christmas Market in Town Hall Square, the Winter Watch Parade shares the stage for a final march through the city.

Chester’s Park and Ride is running a late-night Christmas service on Thursdays. The last bus from Foregate Street will be 9pm. There will be a late-night service each day during Christmas week 19 to 23 December up to 9pm, and the last Park and Ride bus on 24 December will be 6pm.

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