Religious festival

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A religious festival is a time of special importance marked by adherents to that religion. Religious festivals are commonly celebrated on recurring cycles in a calendar year or lunar calendar.

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Ancient Roman religious festivals

Ludi

Although the ancient Roman holiday of "Floralia", celebrated by the set of games and theatrical presentations known as the "Ludi Florales," began in April, it was really an ancient May Day celebration. Flora, the Roman goddess in whose honor the festival was held, was a goddess of flowers, which generally begin to bloom in the spring. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman calendar) ran from April 27 to May 3.

Roman public games or "ludi" were financed by minor public magistrates known as "aediles." The curule aediles produced the Ludi Florales. The position of curule aedile was originally (365 B.C.) limited to patricians, but was later opened up to plebians, too. The ludi could be very expensive for the aediles who used the games as a way of winning the affection and votes of the people.

The Floralia festival

The Floralia festival began in Rome in 238 B.C., to please the goddess Flora into protecting the blossoms. The Floralia fell out of favor and was discontinued until 173 B.C., when the senate, concerned with wind, hail, and other damage to the flowers, ordered Flora's celebration reinstated as the Ludi Florales.

The Ludi Florales included theatrical events, including mimes, naked actresses and prostitutes. In the Renaissance, some writers thought that Flora had been a human prostitute who was turned into a goddess, possibly because of the licentiousness of the Ludi Florales or because, according to David Lupher, Flora was a common name for prostitutes in ancient Rome.

The celebration in honor of Flora included Florida wreaths worn in the hair much like modern participants in May Day celebrations. After the theatrical performances, the celebration continued in the Circus Maximus, where animals were set free and beans scattered to insure fertility.

The Saturnalia

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