To continue with the Christmas theme for December, we will look at Tudor Monastery Farm at Christmas. Christmas was the biggest celebration of the year. Ruth Goodman, Tom Pinfold, and Peter Ginn return to the Tudor Monastery farm to celebrate Christmas Tudor style.
Tudors celebrated Christmas over 12 days with the 12th night being the biggest party of the year. The farmers fasted for 24 days to prepare for the days of feasting. It was a chance to save food and money for the celebration. Farmers would also lay down their tools during the 12 days of Christmas. Peter and Tom would make sure that the animals were well fed before the celebrations.
Ruth prepares the pig's head for the Christmas feast. Boars head was the traditional meal for Christmas. The Boar was the fiercest animal that the Tudor hunted. They were hunted to extinction and so Ruth prepares a pig head. Ruth pickles the pig's head to preserve it for the feasting. To help Ruth prepare for the feasting, Tom stocks up the farm with wood. You could control the heat of the fire by using different woods.
To help brighten up the home, Peter goes into the woods to pick holly and ivy. Peter and Tom work to make a Christmas Crown to hang in the Tudor farm. They use their fence-building skills to make the crown. However, the boys made it too big for the farm door. Poor Ruth is busy with cooking for Christmas. Christmas was the time where the common people could experience the height of luxury. Foods from all around the world were a part of the Tudor Feast. It was also the chance for the Tudor Farmer to help the poor with their celebrations. There was a variety of foods that were made for the Tudor feast at Christmas. The Christmas Pudding and Mince pie made their way to the table during the feast at Christmas. The mince pie originally contained meat during the Tudor Period and over the years the spice and fruit combination while the meat in the pie declined. However, since there were no tins in the Tudor Period the pastry had to be quite stiff to bake.
The first day of the Twelve Days of Christmas was Christmas Day. It was on Christmas day when the people would break their fast. The day kicked off with a morning Mass. Ruth, Peter, and Tom celebrated Christmas with the people who helped them on the farm in the past year. It was the one time of year where the most meat would be eaten. Ruth makes the connection between the courses of the Tudor Feast and how modern people feast. Professor Ronald Hutton provides commentary on why there were celebrations during Midwinter.
The second day of the twelve days of Christmas was the feast day of St. Stephen. Peter checks on the animals. Tradition had it that farmers would not work in the field. Peter discovers that their pigs had piglets, much to Peter’s delight. The monasteries celebrated Christmas communally. The feasting in the monasteries tended towards the poultry: swans, ducks, and chickens. Tudor farmers raised huge amounts of swans, especially for the monasteries.
Ruth and Tom learn about falconry. Aristocrats learned it to show off for their friends, the lower classes of people learned it to hunt. This was another way that the Tudor farmer supplied the monastery with poultry.
To continue to learn more about the Tudor Feast at Christmas, continue to watch this episode.
You can show this episode during the Christmas season in school. You could even try to make some of the foods in the classroom!
You can access the YouTube video here.
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