As the Romans saw many natural thigns such as trees, rocks and other matters as possible hosts to spirits or bearers of some other religious significance, then the countryside bustled with spiritual hints by gods, ghosts and spirits.
There was also not a thing which wasn’t somehow guarded by a deity. There was gods who watched over fields, groves, orchards, vineyards, springs, woods and any other matter. Jupiter for example watched over oak trees which were sacred to him.
As country life was inevitably connected to agriculture, which was at the whim of nature, religious life in the country therefore consisted primarily of appeasing he many gods around one, ensuring that they would guard the harvest and be merciful.
As the ancient calendar, before later changes by the Romans, began on waht is now 15 March, the first traditional festival of the country calendar was the liberalia on 17 March. It was held to honour Liber, the god of fertile crops and vineyards.
(The liberalia was also the traditional date when a boy could become a man by being given his toga virilis.)
On 15 April came the fordicia in honour of the earth goddess Tellus. For this pregnant cows were slaughtered in sacrifice and in Rome animal fetuses were burnt on altars. The parilia festival which took place the week after the fordicia, saw sheep being herded and forced to jump across burning bales of straw, in order to be purified.
Another festival was that celebrating the goddess Ceres which took place on 19 April. Ceres was especially connected with agriculture, the harvest and, especially, grain. So her festival was no doubt of significance to farmers.
There would be a ritual march around the boundaries of the land, the so called lustration, to purify it and to honour the goddess.
In the earlier times of Rome the festival of Ceres would see faxes let loose with torches tied to their tails where later the grand arena of the Circus Maximus would stand.
After the festival of Ceres followed the vinalia rustica which was a wine feast to celebrate the end of winter most likely with generous helpings of wine.
April also saw the strange ritual of a red dog being sacrifice to the god of mildew, Robigus, before it came to an end with the floralia, the festival of blossom.
The floralia which lasted from 28 April to 3 May was perhaps the greatest party among the country festivals.
As the year then past on and the crops gradually ripened in the fields, the ambarvalia took place. It didn’t have a fixed date. This festival too saw a lustration march around the land, and saw plentiful sacrifices made to the gods.
The harvest in August then saw festivals for Ops, the goddess of the harvest, for the granary god Consus, and, alas, another vinalia rustica.
The festival to celebrate the wine crop was held on 11 October, the meditrinalia.
The season for sowing was in December, which saw more festivals in honour of Ops and Consus, and the special sowing festival known as the saturnalia beginning on 17 December.
And it was the saturnalia, which having become a purely secular time of partying in the towns of the empire, should eventually became the Christian celebration of Christmas.
Historian Franco Cavazzi dedicated hundreds of hours of his life to creating this website, roman-empire.net as a trove of educational material on this fascinating period of history. His work has been cited in a number of textbooks on the Roman Empire and mentioned on numerous publications such as the New York Times, PBS, The Guardian, and many more.