Medieval Holiday Celebrations

Aoife's Links this week are all about holiday celebrations from the Middle Ages.

Greetings my faithful readers!

This week's links list is on Holiday celebrations. Please share wherever an interest can be found, and no matter what your holiday, enjoy it!

Happy Yule


Dame AOife Finn CL, CP
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

History Learning Site--Medieval Christmas Traditions
(Site Excerpt) The first recorded use of the word "Christmas" was in 1038 when a book from Saxon England used the words "Cristes Maesse" in it.

Medieval and Tudor Christmas Courts
(Site Excerpt) A.A. Milne's popular children's poem,"King John", portrays the friendless king on the eve of a lonely Christmas, reduced to displaying tattered greeting cards from seasons past and wondering if, alas, he might count on receiving even one measly present this year. A fitting way for one of history's most villainous monarchs to spend the holidays . . . but historically, highly inaccurate. If there was one time of year that an English sovereign could count on being surrounded with all the trimmings and trappings of "fondness" and "friendship" - however forced they might be - it was during the Twelve Days of Christmas, which stretched from December 25 through Epiphany (or Twelfth Night) on January 6.

On Christmas in the Middle Ages
by Nicolaa de Bracton of Leicester
(Site Excerpt) Until the late Middle Ages, the celebration of Christmas Day ranked fairly low among the major festivals of the Christian world. Twelfth Night celebrations far surpassed the rather solemn, low key observance of the birth of Christ, while more festive Yule celebrations (originally a pagan observance) persisted into the Christian era.

Gode Cookery's Tales of the Middle Ages: Christmas
(Site Excerpt) Also important in the celebration of Christmas was the banquet, which necessarily varied in sumptuousness with the resources of the celebrants. The menu varied with soups and stews, birds and fish, breads and puddings, but a common element was the Yule boar, an animal for those who could afford it or a pie shaped like a boar for more humble tables.

Stefan's Florilegium--Yule
(Click Celebrations to the left, then Yule to the right. Site Excerpt from one message): A celebration of the winter solstice has been held since time immemorial in the Northern Hemisphere. Through the ages, the festival has had many names. It is certain that a mid-winter festival called Yule was celebrated in the Nordic countries well before the year 1000. Though challenged by some scholars, the fact that Jo'l was celebrated in Iceland and throughout the Northern Hemisphere well before the advent of Christianity is now widely accepted. The exact date, or dates, that Yule was celebrated is not certain, but probably it was connected to the full moon nearest to the winter solstice.

Christmas Carol Midis
20 downloadable Medieval Carol Midis, with ratings. I was able to listen without anythign special on my computer (window media player worked just fine, though the midis are a bit short.. Christmas Coronations
(Site Excerpt) According to his biographer and friend, Einhard, Charlemagne was taken by surprise when Pope Leo III popped the crown on his head during mass and proclaimed him Emperor. In fact, he was reportedly so angry that he told Einhard he'd never have shown up at church that day if he'd known what Leo had planned, even though the Christmas mass was a particularly holy event.

(Site Excerpt)Those Romans knew how to party. The Egyptian and Persian traditions merged in ancient Rome, in a festival to the ancient god of seed-time, Saturn. The people gave themselves up to wild joy. They feasted, they gave gifts, they decorated their homes with greenery. The usual order of the year was suspended: grudges and quarrels forgotten; wars interrupted or postponed. Businesses, courts, schools closed. Rich and poor were equal, slaves were served by masters, children headed the family. Cross-dressing and masquerades, merriment of all kinds prevailed. A mock king -- the Lord of Misrule -- was crowned. Candles and lamps chased away the spirits of darkness. As Roman culture became more licentious, so did Saturnalia. You can well imagine...

A Medieval Spanish Christmas: Nativity through Epiphany
(Site Excerpt--note there are midi file son this page) On Christmas Eve in medieval Spanish churches a priest would dress up as a crazy old woman, a Greek sybil, who would prophesy the coming of Christ, sometimes singing a version of the Iudcii Signum translated into Latin in the 5th century AD by Augustine

Gode Cookery
How to Cook Medieval--Christmas Feasts
(Site Excerpt) There are some food rules to remember when composing an authentic medieval feast; as the days leading up to Christmas were the fast, or fish-days of Advent, fish was eaten in great quantities up to and including Christmas Eve. (This, therefore, usually meant that fish was not considered an appropriate food for the post-Advent Christmas period; one would be considered a poor or offensive host to offer fish for a Christmas meal!) The practice of serving fish up until Christmas Day survives enthusiastically today as the modern Italian-American tradition of a large and extravagant Christmas Eve seafood dinner.

The Santa Clause Time-line
Trace how Santa changed throught he ages, begining in 9th century Saxony.

The Cronological History of the Christmas Tree
(Site Excerpt) Legend has it that he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God's Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity.

Because They Were Included in the Miracle: Medieval Hanukkah (Women's role in the celebration)
(Site Excerpt) Several medieval commentators supplement Rashi's words with additional details. R. Nissim of Gerona, citing a "midrash," states that the daughter of Johanan the Hasmonean fed cheese to an enemy general in order to make him drowsy, whereupon she proceeded to cut off his head, thereby allowing her companions to flee to safety. He notes that this was the origin of the custom of eating cheese on Hanukkah. Rashi's grandson Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam) identifies the heroine of the story as Judith.

Stefan's Florilegium: Medieval 12th Night celebrations
(Site Excerpt from one message) Well, it is apparently the last day on which you can serve the roasted boar's head. The last verse of the carol reads:

The boar's head, I dare well say,

Anon upon the twelveth day,

He takyth his leave and goeth away,

Exivit tunc de patria. [He has left the country.]

Heronter: Medieval Winter Holidays
Long list of links, many of which appeared in past holiday Aoife's Links Lists (scroll down a bit)

Eid al Fitr

Links to images of the Magi

Altramar: "Nova Stella: A Medieval Italian Christmas"
(Site Excerpt) Program summary:Christmas, 1223 ... a hermit's cave in Italy. The torchlight revealed a Nativity scene, complete with the manger crib, and actors playing the roles of all the participants, including the ox and ass. Among those present was St. Francis of Assisi, who planned the whole event in order to see "with human eyes" the scene as it was at Christ's birth: the hay, the candlelight, the animals, the manger. Thomas of Celano, in his famous chronicle of Francis' life, speaks of the scene as "a new Bethlehem." The surrounding woods, says Thomas, "rang out with holy songs."'s Amanda's Medieval Christmas--Step-by-step
Some good advice and some very funny advice--apply at your own risk! (Site Excerpt) Carol singers going from house to house now is as a result of carols being banned within churches in Medieval times. Carol singers in Medieval times took the word "carol" literally - it means to sing and dance in a circle. So many Xmas services were spoiled by carol signers doing just this, that the Church at the time banned them and ordered the carol singers into the street. Music is essential, and whilst we all like Slade, Wizzard and Band Aid, I'm afraid that we'll have to eschew them in favour of some truly Medieval (yet equally festive) fare.

Il Presepe
Part 1 of 3 - History of the Crèche
(Site Excerpt) One thing we know for certain is that the popularity of the Nativity scene did not occur until after St. Francis reenacted what many believe was the first living Nativity. St. Francis asked for and got permission from Pope Honorius III to hold a special celebration during Christmas. With the help of Giovanni Velita they prepared for this special celebration which would take place on Christmas Eve in 1223 at the monastery at Greccio. On that faithful night a child was placed in a crib as an ox and donkey stood nearby. Those who came to watch got to witness for themselves the miracle that occurred 1,223 years ago in the small town of Bethlehem.

Where did the tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts start?
(Site Excerpt) We have many recorded events in history that show the giving and receiving of gifts dates back at least to the 4th century. St. Nicholas, a Christian Bishop, was known for his generosity in giving to those less fortunate than he, as well as giving to children of all backgrounds simply because he felt they needed to savor their childrood, and have joyous times to remember ...

Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

—Calvin Coolidge, 1872

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