By Danièle Cybulskie
The holiday season is upon us once again, which means that it’s time to get medieval and party like there’s no fifteenth century! Partying in the Middle Ages shares whole lot with partying today, so without further ado, let’s get to how to party like it’s 1399.
1. Dress for Success
If you’re a peasant, chances are you’ll be dressing in thick homespun wool or linen, but it needn’t be drab. Dress it up and stay warm with rabbit and squirrel trim, and bust out the needle and thread to embroider some festive designs on your tunic or dress. Ladies, it’s always fashionable to wear coloured ribbons in your hair when it’s party time, so get braiding! The Princess Leia buns with netting or a veil on top are very hot right now. If you’re rich, this is just the right moment to rock pointy hats and shoes – the more impractical, the better (after all, you’re rich; you don’t have to be practical). You can also use a wider range of colours and furs than the peasantry, but don’t overdo it: leave the royal purple to the actual royals.
2. Get Some Good Eats
Although Christmas is a religious holiday, there’s no need to fast. Help yourself to meat, meat, and more meat! While you won’t be munching on a huge turkey leg, like in the movies (turkey is North American, so it’s a delicacy not yet discovered by Europeans), you can dress up your fowl by carefully reattaching its feathers for an extra-fancy look. Feel free to build marzipan sculptures to dress up the table, or tell stories with your food by baking cookies in molds carved with scenes from the Bible, or other famous tales. Now is the time to set the table with your best glassware and (of course) fanciest salt cellar.
3. Crank the Tunes
It’s not a real party unless recorders are involved, am I right? Hire yourself some musicians to play all the most recent dance tunes on recorders, drums, and lutes, and don’t forget to sing along! For moderns, get a taste of medieval choral music by giving the Mediaeval Baebes a try.
4. Make it Merry
‘Tis the season to let go and let the wine flow without watering it down. It’s even okay to drink sweet wines at your holiday feast, although you should be careful not to overheat your body or your morals with all that sweetness. For children, there’s small ale, which is less alcoholic, but for grownups, there’s plenty of beer, often brewed by local wives, or mead, often made at the local monastery. For my part, I’m a big fan of mulled wine, a special treat because of the exotic spices that it can be made with, like cinnamon, ginger, or saffron. You can warm it slowly, or reheat it by sticking a hot poker from the fire into your goblet. Enjoy!
5. Remember What’s Important
It’s been a tumultuous year. England is deeply divided over politics. Richard II has just been overthrown by his cousin Henry (now Henry IV), leaving the people troubled in their consciences over the moral implications. People who stood firmly on one side or the other are now looking at each other sideways to see what the fallout is going to be. Beloved celebrities, like Chaucer, are soon to be gone. The best course for a good party is to leave politics and celebrity deaths aside and remember why you invited the people you invited. Even in the face of an uncertain future with an unexpected leader, family and friends are still important, and holidays together are still meaningful. So, raise a cup, raise a cheer, and enjoy this precious moment in history with the ones you love.
Have a merry, medievalicious celebration!
Top Image: 15th century medieval feast, attributed to the Master of the Dark Eyes – British Library MS Harley 2838 f.45