Tudor Christmas Traditions

Tudor Christmas Traditions

Please enjoy this guest post by Wendy Pyatt.

Tudor Christmas Traditions
Christmas through New Years was the greatest festival period celebrated by the Tudors. Advent was a time of fasting; Christmas Eve was particularly strictly kept with no meat, cheese or eggs. Celebrations began on Christmas Day when the genealogy of Christ was sung while everyone held lighted tapers. The monarch was required to attend church and would be expected to wear new clothes. He or she would progress from the Privy Chamber to the Chapel Royal dressed in coronation robes of purple and/or scarlet complete with crown.

The whole 12 days of Christmas was celebrated (25th December – 6th January). All work stopped except looking after animals; spinning was even banned as this was a common occupation for women and flowers were placed around the spinning wheels. People would visit friends instead of working and it was seen as very much a community celebration. Work re-started on Plough Monday, the first Monday after 12th night.

In Tudor Times the most sumptuous feasts were held on 25th Dec, 1st Jan and 6th Jan.  In 1532/33, the preparation for the 12th night feast at Greenwich palace required the building of a temporary boiling and working house. Up to 24 courses would be served, much more than was needed for the guests, but it was a status symbol. Leftover food was always used to feed the poor.

Tudor Christmas had a definite purpose and was always a 2 week period of concerted power, politics, and networking as the monarch would certainly be surrounded by all courtiers, nobility and other important people. Because society was very strictly organised, these celebrations acted as a pressure release, a time when everything was turned on its head, the world turned inside out and upside down. Certain sections of society were even allowed an unusual degree of freedom.  For example, there was a Lord of Misrule. He was like a mock king and supervised entertainments or rather unruly events involving drinking, revelry, role reversal and general chaos.  The inspiration for this Lord of Misrule was the earlier 11th century tradition of The Feast of Fools.

Another favorite Tudor Christmas tradition was the performing of plays. There are records from the early 16th century that both Oxford and Cambridge colleges employed travelling players in their Christmas entertainments. There are also records of a play being performed for Cardinal Wolsey at Grays Inn during Christmas 1526. Coventry mystery plays, which the Coventry carol was written for, tell the story of Herod’s murder of the innocents. Mystery plays are still performed in Coventry today.

The Tudors also possibly practiced the Viking custom of burning a Yule Log. The Log would be decorated on Christmas Eve for the 12 days of Christmas and then burned. It was considered lucky to keep some remains to help light the following year’s log.
All sports on Christmas day were banned by Henry VIII in 1541 (except archery of course). In theory gambling, tennis, bowls and other games were forbidden to all but the very wealthy. Jousting was also a popular aristocratic sport during the Christmas period.

An interesting tidbit is that in 1551, Edward VI passed a law commanding everyone to walk to church on Christmas Day; it’s still on the books today!

Drawn with permission from a post originally published at www.localhistories.org


{Main photo credit: Markus Spiske @ Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/search/christmas?photo=TymR-rSAMnI }

{Candles photo credit: Mary Louise @ Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/search/christmas-candle?photo=v21n75hgo4E }

{ Yule Log photo used by purchase permission from iStock }

{ Jousting photo credit: By Paulus Hector Mair – De arte athletica II [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15849932 }

32 Comments On This Topic
  1. Susan @ Reading World
    on Dec 10th at 11:40 am

    Great post! I love the prize-both the book and coasters! Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. Kathleen Kelly
    on Dec 10th at 1:54 pm

    I would love to win…awesome post…interesting where some customs come from..thank you for the chance!!

    I have a teapot with Henry VIII and his wives so coasters would be great…!! and of course a signed copy of the book would be awesome too! I am eagerly awaiting the next in your Elizabethan series…Happy Holidays!

  3. Nicole Laverdure
    on Dec 10th at 4:02 pm

    I like your blog and love historical romances. Thank your for this nice giveaway.I just read the short story of “To die for” and it sounds amazing! And many thanks to Blog hop to help me discover new blogs to join. so much fun!

  4. Svea
    on Dec 10th at 4:28 pm

    Thank you for this delightful post and the opportunity to win your novel, To Die For, along with those fabulous coasters! I have been wanting to read To Die For for such a long time. Have a lovely holiday season!

  5. Terry Martini
    on Dec 10th at 5:10 pm

    What an awesome giveaway! Would love to read your book.

  6. Kirsten W
    on Dec 10th at 5:14 pm

    Great post! And thanks for the giveaway 🙂


  7. Kendal
    on Dec 10th at 5:39 pm

    What a wonderful post and thank you for the great giveaway!


  8. Leah Weller
    on Dec 10th at 6:18 pm

    I enjoyed the information in this post. To Die For has been on my wishlist. Thank you for the chance in the giveaway. 🙂


  9. Joanne M.
    on Dec 10th at 8:29 pm

    I would love an opportunity to win your novel. Thank you for the wonderful post and the chance to win.

  10. sawcat
    on Dec 10th at 10:34 pm

    I do not envy the Tudor era cooks working on the Christmas feasts. Thanks for all the info on the twelve days. I’d love to enter your giveaway.

  11. Martina
    on Dec 10th at 11:11 pm

    Those are such cool coasters!! (PS. The book was amazing!!)

  12. mamabunny13
    on Dec 11th at 5:39 am

    Great post! Thanks for the giveaway.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  13. Mystica
    on Dec 11th at 8:14 am

    Thank you for an interesting post. Thanks for the giveaway as well and specially for making it open to all.

  14. Meghan Stith
    on Dec 11th at 1:18 pm

    I love Tudor history! I went to London last year and visited the Tower of London. Seeing the exact location where Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were beheaded was moving.


  15. Lara Newell
    on Dec 11th at 5:07 pm

    What an interesting post! And thanks for the great giveaway!

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  16. Thank you for the giveaway. I’d love to read To Die For as I’ve heard great things about it.

  17. Janet P.
    on Dec 11th at 9:31 pm

    I love the Tudor time period! Great giveaway!

  18. Kayley F.
    on Dec 11th at 9:50 pm

    Thanks so much for offering this!


  19. Marie
    on Dec 12th at 9:23 am

    Thank you for the fabulous giveaway, Sandra! I’ve been wanting to read one of your books for quite awhile!
    marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

  20. Vera
    on Dec 12th at 10:26 am

    Such awesome coasters – would love to win! vera@luxuryreading.com

  21. nancy
    on Dec 12th at 10:40 am

    Nice post, nice giveaway. Thanks.

  22. Kim Cree
    on Dec 12th at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  23. sara
    on Dec 12th at 10:58 pm

    Didn’t realize the no work for the entire yule period. That means your life would be very interesting on 7 January.
    Giveaway book sounds interesting

  24. Sandra K321
    on Dec 13th at 10:47 am

    Interesting traditions; I didn’t realize that they celebrated the entire period. I still have my Anne Boleyn doll that I received from my grandparents (British, of course) when I was a child.

  25. Shoshanah
    on Dec 13th at 8:16 pm

    I would absolutely love to win a copy of your book! And think the coasters would be so much fun!

  26. Mary Galliver
    on Dec 14th at 10:19 am

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  27. Lalani
    on Dec 14th at 3:35 pm

    Nice giveaway. Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

  28. Nikki O
    on Dec 16th at 12:49 pm

    Oh I love the Tudors. This sounds so cool! Thanks for this! Happy hols!

  29. Theresa Newbury
    on Dec 16th at 9:23 pm

    HISTORY!! Isn’t it just marvelous!! Loved your post and loving your giveaway! *fingers crossed for the win*

  30. nrlymrtl
    on Dec 16th at 9:52 pm

    I’ve read several books on Ann Boleyn. Thanks for the chance to win!

  31. sandrabyrd
    on Dec 18th at 4:11 pm

    Random.org drew #25, so Nancy has been notified that she’s the winner. Thank you all very much for your comments (I read each one!), and for stopping by. Audra – I am putting flowers around my computer on Friday. 🙂

  32. Leah Weller
    on Dec 18th at 6:47 pm

    Congratulations, Nancy! 🙂