"...there were no disguisings [acting], nor harping, luting or singing, nor any lewd sports, but just playing at the tables [backgammon] and chess and cards. Such sports she gave her folk leave to play and no other."
“ ..also if ye be at home this Christmas, it were well done ye should do purvey a garnish or twain of pewter vessel, two basins and two ewers, and twelve candlesticks, for ye have too few of any of these to serve this place.” Letter from Margaret Paston to John Paston, 1460s
Symbol of an obligation between lord & master, lord & tenant – rents were due!
Gifts were given on Dec 5/6 (St. Nicholas day) or Jan 6 (12 th night/Epiphany) rather than on Christmas Day itself
http://www.livius.org/ne-nn/nicholas/nicholas_of_myra2.html#Amsterdam A 16 th Century development: “ In Holland it was said that during the night of 5/6 December, the bearded Saint Nicholas and his white horse rode over the snow-covered roofs and threw presents through the chimneys, which the children would find early in the morning, often hid in shoes.”
“ Right reverend and worshipful father… I beseech you that you would vouchsafe to send me some money…for I have but one gown at Framlingham, and another here, and that is my livery gown, and we must wear them every day for the more part, and one gown without change will soon be done.
Your son and lowly servant.”
Letter from John Paston Jr., 20 years old, to his father, Halloween 1462.
In 1289 the Bishop of Swinford had a Christmas feast that lasted 3 days.
“ They ate no less than 1 boar, 2 complete carcasses and 3 quarters of beef, 2 calves, 4 doves, 4 pigs, about 60 fowl (hens or possibly capons), 8 partridges and 2 geese , as well as bread and cheese. The amount of ale served was not recorded, but ten sextaries (about 10 pints) of red wine and one of white were consumed.
A group of three prosperous villeins on a manor belonging to Wells Cathedral in the early fourteenth century received 'two white loaves, as much beer as they will drink in a day, a mess of beef and of bacon with mustard, one of browis (stew) of hen, and a cheese, fuel to cook their food... and to burn from dinner time till even and afterwards, and two candles.'
'but he must bring with him... his own cloth, cup and trencher, and take away all that is left on his cloth, and he shall have for himself and his neighbours one wastel [loaf] cut in three for the ancient Christmas game to be played with the said wastel.'
..and our friend Henry? On Christmas Day , there was always the seasonal favourite, seethed brawn made from spiced boar or pork , and perhaps roast swans ; the first course, however, was invariably a boar's head , which was served " bedecked with bay and rosemary ". For the sumptuous banquet that marked Twelfth Night , a special cake containing dried fruit, flour, honey, and spices was baked. The cake contained a pea or a bean; whoever found it would be King or Queen of the Pea or Bean for the evening. ... At the void on Twelfth Night, the choir of the Chapel Royal sang as the wassail cup , which contained spiced ale , was brought in by the Lord Steward and presented to the King and Queen and then passed around the table. Henry VIII: The King and his Court by Alison Weir
“ I’ll be home for Christmas”... Medieval or Modern?
“ I am sorry that ye shall not at home be for Christmas. I pray you that ye will come as soon as ye may; I shall think myself half a widow, because ye shall not be at home. God have you in his keeping.
Written on Christmas even.”
Letter from Margery Paston to her husband John, 1484.