The Tudor Society
The Tudor Society
  • The Feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

    In Tudor England, 25th October marked the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian who were brothers (some say twins) and who were martyrs of the Early Church, being beheaded on 25 October 285 or 286 during the reign of Diocletian. Following the victory of England over France on 25 October 1415, at the Battle of Agincourt, the day became a celebration of that event too. Celebrations included bonfires, revelry and the crowning of a King Crispin.

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  • December Feast Days

    The 6th December was and is the feast of St Nicholas, or St Nicholas of Myra, the 4th century Bishop of Myra (modern-day Demre in Turkey), who is the patron saint of children, as well as sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, brewers, pawnbrokers and students. In medieval and Tudor times, it was traditional for a choirboy to be chosen on 6th December or Childermas (Holy Innocents’ Day) as “Boy Bishop” to act as bishop and to lead processions around communities, collecting money for the church and parish funds, and to lead some religious services.

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  • November Feast Days

    All Saints Day was the celebrated on 1st November every year. It was a feast day in honour of all the saints and martyrs and was established because there were not enough days in the year to commemorate the lives of all the saints. Pope Urban IV said of it: “Any negligence, omission and irreverence committed in the celebration of the saints’ feasts throughout the year is to be atoned for by the faithful, and thus due honor may still be offered these saints.”

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  • October Feast Days

    In the medieval period, wakes were held to mark the end of summer and to dedicate the local church. The feasting and partying could go on for days, so, in 1532, Henry VIII stamped down on this practice and ordered that the first Sunday in October was the day for local parish churches to hold their dedication service.

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  • September Feast Days

    The festival of ‘harvest home’ or ‘ingathering’ was, and still is, celebrated when the harvest was safely done. It was a thanksgiving for God’s help with the harvest and for the crop. It was essential to get the wheat and barley in before the autumn rains and cooler weather, otherwise the community could face starvation – wheat was needed for bread and barley was needed for ale. Professor Ronald Hutton explained the importance of the harvest in the TV series “Tudor Monastery Farm”. He explained that Bloody Flux, a disease common in the Tudor period, was actually caused by malnutrition because when the body was completely famished it suffered an intestinal haemorrhage. Famine was what happened when there was a bad harvest so people celebrated a good harvest and gave thanks for their farming success.

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  • August Feast Days

    This was an ancient Celtic festival and marked the start of the wheat harvest. After the first crops were safely brought in, the first loaves baked with the wheat from this harvest in each household would be taken to church and blessed as a thanksgiving for the harvest. This would be followed by a celebratory feast.

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  • July Feast Days

    The Visitation of the Virgin was a feast day commemorating the pregnant Virgin Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. This visit was recorded in the Book of Luke and Luke records how the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped” when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting and that “Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost; so that she cried out with a loud voice, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

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  • May Feast Days

    1 May, or May Day, was seen as the first day of summer and had its roots in ancient celebrations of fertility. It was celebrated with special processions, plays and pantomimes, pageants, Morris dancing and the crowning of a May Queen. There would also be a Maypole, a tall wooden pole decorated with greenery and flowers and hung with ribbons. People would hold the ribbons and dance around the Maypole weaving the ribbons together in patterns.

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  • February Feast Days

    If you haven’t taken down your Christmas decorations yet then don’t worry, you’re just following the medieval and Tudor tradition of taking them down on Candlemas Eve. 1st February was the traditional day for removing the greenery, such as laurel, holly, ivy and rosemary, which had decorated homes over the Christmas period. However, Candlemas Eve really is your last chance to rid your home of decorations and please don’t leave them up otherwise you may just get invaded by goblins!

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  • January Feast Days

    In medieval and Tudor times, the calendar year actually began on 25th March, Lady Day, but confusingly (for us anyway!) the Roman tradition of New Year was celebrated on 1st January. This was a time for the nobility and monarch to exchange gifts. The king would get dressed in his chamber and then wait for one of his consort’s servants to bring in the gift from the queen. He would then accept gifts from other courtiers and the queen would do the same in her chamber. This gift giving was an ideal opportunity for a courtier to try and win favour from the monarch or to impress the monarch with a lavish gift.

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