The Winter Watch is back

29 November 2019

Chester’s Christmas celebrations turn back the clock to the 1400s next week as the City Watch return for the Winter Watch parade on Thursday 5 December at 7pm. 

The Winter Watch parade includes many characters from the Medieval Midsummer Watch Parade; the origins of both go back to the 1400’s. The City Watch were Chester’s early Police Force, records show that at Christmas the City Watch  took control of the keys to the city after processing around Chester to make sure it was secure. This was followed by a banquet and celebration of Christmas by the city leaders. 

Lisa Harris, Director or Places Strategy, Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “Following the 12 Days of Christmas parade and the Lantern Parade we have two more festive parades. I’d like to thank the hundreds of people that have taken part in all of the parades, the marshals and organisers.

“The Park and Ride buses have extended times during the late night shopping Thursday’s with the last buses leaving around 9pm. Using Park and Ride helps reduces traffic and congestion in the city centre.”

The Winter Watch parades are led by Chester’s Karamba Samba dressed as a ghost band, joined by a cast of Angels, Devils, Fire Skeletons, Dragons, Ice Queens, Jack Frost and Cooks with their Victorian Christmas Dinner plus a giant Santa and Snowman. 

There will be a second chance to see the Winter Watch parade when it joins forces with the Roman Saturnalia parade the following week on Thursday 12 December. 

The final festive parade takes the city back to its Roman occupation in 47/48 AD. Chester returns to Roman rule for one night only with soldiers from the Deva Victrix 20th Legion taking back control of their city as Chester Roman Tours celebrates Saturnalia. 

The Roman Legion march through the city with flaming torches whilst their Emperor Domitian delivers his speech to confirm Roman rule. 
“Let none of you be mistaken, the Romans are still here, at certain times of the year you will see us marching once more through our fortress.
“Remember who and what I am. I am a sword that sings in the dark. I am the sound of a legion marching to war. I am the axe that thuds into your scull. I am accuser, judge and executioner. I am Imperator. I am a living God. I am Caesar. I am Rome”.

The Saturnalia parade leaves the Grosvenor Museum at 6.30pm. After arriving in Eastgate Street the Emperor Domitian will address his subjects. 

Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. Saturnalia was originally celebrated in Ancient Rome for only a day on 17 December but it was so popular it extended to a week, from the 17 to 23 December, despite Augustus' efforts to reduce it to three days, and Caligula's, to five.

Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of roles, with slaves and masters switching places. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolised the freed slave. A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule. 

Following the release of the Lord of Misrule at the Christmas Market, the Winter Watch Parade shares the stage for a final march through the city. 

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