FRIENDS, Romans and Yorkshiremen are invited to a weekend of celebrations to mark the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Events at the Eboracum Legion Bathhouse, in St Sampson's Square, will include music, dancing and traditional Roman ceremonies.

During the Roman Empire, Saturnalia was a festival in honour of Roman god Saturn, held in mid-December and marked with gift-giving and feasting.

Keith Mulhearn, alias Maximus Gluteus, said visitors to the bathhouse over this weekend would discover the origins of the way in which we celebrate Christmas today.

"Saturnalia was a very similar affair to our modern Christmas celebrations, particularly in the fourth century AD when the Christian Emperor Constantine decreed that people should celebrate the birth of Christ. There was lots of dancing, feasting, singing and drinking."

Entry to the event, from 10am to 4pm both today and tomorrow, costs £2 for adults and £1 for children. Tomorrow, there will be an authentic Roman buffet, serving typical Roman fare such as chicken in ale, lamb stew and assorted fruits and breads. The buffet costs £5 a head.

Updated: 09:32 Saturday, December 18, 2004