Festivals of the Middle Ages

A medieval year was marked by a large number of festivals, many of which were rooted in ancient traditions. All these events animated the months of the inhabitants of this time and they arose mainly with the change of the stations. In January, at the beginning of the year, twelve days were celebrated at Christmas.

However, from the twelfth century onwards, in many parts of Europe, the New Year began to be celebrated on 25 March. However, always early January was a time of celebration and an opportunity to rest from the daily routine of work.

The celebrations in which the community participated were led by the bishop or the governor of the area. The Christmas celebrations concluded on 6 January with the feast of the Epiphany. The first Sunday after Epiphany celebrated what was known as Monday Plow, the day on which agricultural work began that year. The earth was blessed so that the harvest would be fruitful.

In a similar spirit, the Candelaria Festival was celebrated on February 2. The candles of the churches were blessed and carried home to bring luck and prosperity. The forty days of Lent were the time for the great sacrifices of the Middle Ages. Many things were forbidden during this time, especially meat, dairy products, sex and marriage ceremonies.

The prohibitions concluded with the arrival of Easter, the highest point of the annual calendar within the church. During this time it was time to celebrate and resurface spiritually.

The next great celebration of the year was in May, with dances, the coronation of the king and the queen of May. This was followed by the beginning of summer, a festival with pagan origins in which bonfires and dances were mixed.

On August 1 and 2, depending on the area, Lammas Day was celebrated, a festival of the harvests. The word Lammas comes from the word “bread of mass”, and the festival commemorated the first fruits offered by the harvests. The first bread produced by the new harvest was blessed in the church. This party was followed by a very similar one in September, which also celebrated the success of the harvests. Communities congregated in the parish church to attend a service of thanksgiving, with a dinner with products offered and harvested from the earth.

As the days grew shorter and darker, the feasts of All Saints took place, where the dead were remembered the day before, as an ancient tradition recalled that the dead were walking again on the earth on the 31 of October. The year closed with the celebration of Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, a new period of fasting to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Many medieval festivals and festivals have remained to this day. Both now and then, people break with them their daily work routine and give us a reason for communities to come together and share their experiences, celebrating the successes of the months and seasons.

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