Category Archives: Holidays

Happy Medieval New Year!

The medieval calendar was based on the Roman tradition of the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar used 12 lunar months to track one solar year, with irregular days spread out to keep it as even as possible. Medieval calendars tended … Continue reading

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Special days after Christmas

Medieval people generally believed that feasts were the way to honor saints, and the week after Christmas was particularly thick with saints to honor. That’s one reason that Christmas seemed like a feast that just went on and on. St. … Continue reading

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Putting “Christ” back in Christmas, 13th cent.

Christmas was always a somewhat troubling holiday for really devout believers. Its syncretist roots were quite plain from the start and in the beginning some of the newly-converted might have been aware of things like the religious meaning of mistletoe … Continue reading

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Christmas drama

The castle Hall at Christmas always had some theater productions. Traveling players may have been engaged to put on shows (Christmas was a time when any and all jongleurs and singers could count on picking up work if they didn’t … Continue reading

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Medieval Christmas games

After a feast, when the food scraps and dishes were cleared away, it was time for games and dancing. Here’s where we have to admit that medieval games were a bit lame. It’s much nicer to explain that while we … Continue reading

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Christmas in a castle

As you remember from the castle series, there were no true castles in Charlemagne’s time. As soon as you’re in a stone castle with a keep, maybe a round tower, and a gatehouse, the year is at least 1100 and … Continue reading

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Christmas with Charlemagne

When Pope Gregory first sent Latin missionaries to the outer northern wilds of Europe, he instructed them to make it easy for converts. If they were used to gathering on a hilltop somewhere on a certain day, find a saint’s … Continue reading

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May Day and Robin Hood

May 1 is mostly behind us, but still worth covering from the Middle Ages. May Day was a true folk holiday celebrating spring. It had nothing to do with the church, which generally opposed May Day games on prudential “they’ll … Continue reading

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Medieval Easter

On Saturday night before Easter, with all fires extinguished at the church, the priest started a new fire and the villagers came to light lamps and candles to take the holy flame home. Medieval Easter began very early at the … Continue reading

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Re-enacting the death of Jesus: medieval Good Friday

Medieval churches tried to dramatize the death of Jesus; their idea of re-enactment was liturgical, symbolic, and heavily loaded with music. In Biblical dramas staged publicly during the summer, an actor might play the role of Jesus, tied and faux-nailed … Continue reading

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