Just as we have got over Valentine’s Day, it is time to celebrate another Roman festival – Parentalia.
Parentalia ran between 13-22 February in Ancient Rome and was a time for families to celebrate their ancestors.
The anniversary kicks off on 13 February with ceremonies to appease the souls of the deceased – known as the Manes – performed by the chief Vestal Virgin, one of six priestesses who kept the hearth fire burning at the Altar of the Virgin Goddess of the hearth (and therefore, home), Vesta. The priestesses were thought to be necessary to the safety and security of the Eternal City.
Lupercalia – what we know as Valentine’s Day – took place on 15 February, when Ancient Rome celebrated fertility rites.
On 17 February, there were two celebrations – the Oven Festival (Fornacalia) and Quirinalia, in honour of the ancient god Quirinus, after whom the Palazzo Quirinale is named.
On 21 February, there is a public celebration of Parentalia – and on 22 February Caristia (what we would call our “nearest and dearest”) is celebrated, involving rites to bring love and forgiveness to the family.
Some of the rites could be darker, such as Feralia, aimed at the gods of the Underworld (Hades) – known as di inferi – where the spirits of the ancestors dwelt, after crossing the underground River Styx upon death on a ferry operated by the ferryman Charon.
To mark Feralia, Ancient Romans would take offerings to the tombs of their ancestors. There was a basic requirement for offerings, which is recorded as “an arrangement of wreaths, a sprinkling of grain and a bit of salt, bread soaked in wine and violets scattered about.” Ancient Romans could make their offerings even more generous, however, should their budget allow.
The remaining festivals in February kept the Ancient Romans busy celebrating: Terminalia on 23 February in celebration of Terminus, the god of boundary markers; Regifugium on 24 February, to mark the flight from Rome in 510BC of the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus; and Equirria on 27 February, which was dedicated to the god Mars and consisted of a horse-racing event, one of two horse-racing festivals in Ancient Rome.
It is clear that there is nothing the Ancient Romans enjoyed more than a good festival and the holidays (feriae) which marked these. In fact, February appears to be one long holiday in Ancient Rome, including the moving banquet Compitalia between 3-5 February.
Today’s moving banquet in Rome…
If you are ever short of a good reason to celebrate, you perhaps could do no better than check what the Ancient Romans might have got up to and take a leaf out of their book!
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4 thoughts on “Time to celebrate Parentalia”
Thank you – if you are interested in Rome and Roman history, check out my other posts.
Thank you. I A
I am Italian and interested in what is linked to Roman history