Late in December (the equivalent of the 17th on the modern calendar) Romans honored Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, with a festival. During the holiday, class distinctions were set aside and the restraints of law and morality were ignored.
For the seven days of Saturnalia the community selected a “Lord of Misrule.” This mock king directed the drinking dancing and general lewdness, carousing and debauchery.
At the close of the festival, the Lord of Misrule was expected to cut his own throat on Saturn’s altar which would restore order throughout the land.
Saturnalia was celebrated throughout Europe into the 16th Century when The Christian Reformation replaced the bacchanal with the more demure celebration of Christmas.