Saturnalia was a Roman festival timed for the dead of winter. It was held to mark what they thought was the death and then rebirth of the sun. This seven day festival of lights and roaring fires began on December 17th. It was known as a time of sacrifice and excess. It was also a time when normal rules were abandoned, slaves and masters shared roles or wore the same clothes. Evergreens would have decorated houses. Gifts were also exchanged which were also symbolic. A lamp may be given to wish a life of brightness to the recipient. Hot on the heels of Saturnalia was December 25th known as the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis or Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. This coincided with the main festival of the Sun God Attis.
All these festivals saw noisy street processions, feasting and a great deal of drinking.