Gifts which it was customary for the Romans to make at the new year with accompanying good
wishes. The word is connected with the name of a Sabine tutelary goddess, Strenia, who
corresponds to the Roman Salus, and from whose precinct beside the Via Sacra at Rome
consecrated branches were carried up to the Capitoline at the new year. The strenae consisted
of branches of bay and of palm, sweetmeats made of honey, and figs or dates, as a good omen
that the year might bring only joy and happiness (Ovid, Fasti
, i. 185- 190).
The fruits were gilded (Martial, viii. 33, 11) as they are now in Germany; and the word, as
well as the custom, survives in the French étrennes.
Pieces of money, especially the ancient as
, with the image of Ianus,
who was especially honoured on this day, were also sent as presents, as well as small lamps of
terra-cotta or bronze stamped with a motto and with minute representations of the usual gifts.
Clients in particular were in the habit of complimenting their patrons with such presents;
and, during and after the time of Augustus, the emperors benefited considerably by this
custom, which lasted till the fifth century, although abolished several times by special edict
and 91; Calig.
42). It was discouraged by the
Christian Fathers as being connected with the worship of a heathen goddess.