April 12th begins the ,Cerealia the festival in honor of Ceres, the goddess of Agriculture, grain, fertility and motherly relationships. Ceres was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad. Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the Maylustration of fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.
Cerealia, was held from mid to late April. It was organised by her plebeian aediles and included circus games (ludi circenses). It opened with a horse-race in the Circus Maximus, whose starting point lay below and opposite to her Aventine Temple; the turning post at the far end of the Circus was sacred to Consus, a god of grain-storage. After the race, foxes were released into the Circus, their tails ablaze with lighted torches, perhaps to cleanse the growing crops and protect them from disease and vermin, or to add warmth and vitality to their growth. From c.175 BC, Cerealia included ludi scaenici(theatrical religious events) through April 12 to 18.
In ancient Roman religion, the Cerealia was the major festival. Its archaic nature is indicated by a nighttime ritual described by Ovid. Blazing torches were tied to the tails of live foxes, who were released into the Circus Maximus. The origin and purpose of this ritual are unknown; it may have been intended to cleanse the growing crops and protect them from disease and vermin, or to add warmth and vitality to their growth. Ovid offers an aetiological explanation: long ago, at ancient Carleoli, a farm-boy caught a fox stealing chickens and tried to burn it alive. The fox escaped, ablaze; in its flight it fired the fields and their crops, which were sacred to Ceres. Ever since, foxes are punished at her festival.