Christmas in the days of old

As Christianity spread in Medieval Europe, new traditions were established.  For instance, near the end of the ninth century, King Alfred the Great of England (849-899) mandated that his subjects observe the Twelve Days of Christmas.  He outlawed all legal proceedings, work, and fighting during that time.

The well-to-do were busy at Christmas: they made music, played games, danced, told stories, hunted, jousted, and feasted.  The peasants were busy keeping the well-to-do fed.  How busy?  In 1213 King John of England (1167-1216) held one of the largest and most sumptuous Christmas banquets on record:

  • 400 pigs
  • 3,000 hens
  • 15,000 herrings
  • 10,000 salt eels
  • scores of pheasants, partridges and other birds
  • 27 hogsheads of wine
  • 100 pounds of almonds
  • 50 pounds of pepper
  • and 2 pounds of saffron

Let’s just say that that would be an awful lot of leftovers.

Merry Christmas to all, and we’ll see you on the other side of New Year’s.