WITH a musical medieval Christmas set to entertain audiences at the Evesham Arts Centre, with a show called "Sing we Yule", it is timely, perhaps, to turn the spotlight on the last Prior or Worcester, who apparently kept the festive season rather well.

According the writer Richard Greene, in "The Early English Carols" (Oxford, 1935), the faithful city was probably an excellent place to be at Christmas, at least if you a member of the ruling classes.

Mr Greene wrote: "William More, last Prior of Worcester, gave a Christmas feast every year to officials of the city; among the most frequent items of expense in the years 1518 to 1532 are malmsey and other wines, minstrels and other entertainers, and singers of carols.

"It is plain that all of these are regarded as regular components of a large holiday dinner for which a whole ox was bought.".

Mr Greene adds: "Those who would put churchmen and popular merry song into separate worlds are advised to look further into these good times at Worcester Priory."

The Priory was, of course, the building we now know as Worcester Cathedral.

But was Worcester anything out of the ordinary, before the Reformation, when it came to making the merry season jolly?

It seems, at least, that Worcester may have been a nationally important centre for musical rejoicing at Christmas.

According to the online site, "Clerk of Oxford", a study of medieval life in England, a famous medieval collection of carols was probably compiled at Worcester.

This was the "Selden Carol Book", now one of the treasures of Bodleian Library, and dating from the fifteenth century.

Indeed, the famous "Agincourt Carol", to celebrate Henry V's great victory over the French, is found in the book and may well be contemporaneous with his victory, which took place in 1415.

Carols, of course, point to the profound religious significance of Christmas, which was never forgotten during the Middle Ages.

However, when people in medieval times looked forward to the "twelve days of Christmas", they expected the full indulgent package, it appears.

The writer Jane Gilbert, in her article "A Medieval Christmas" for the Time Travel - Britain.com website said: "When we think of medieval Christmas, our minds are filled with images of royal banquets in halls bedecked with green, of minstrels singing festive songs, noble lords and ladies gorging themselves on roast goose. We imagine fresh bright mornings, where the differences between rich and poor could be momentarily overlooked.

"Is it wrong to romanticize like this? There is evidence to suggest that our imaginations aren't far off the mark."

And according to 2012 article from the Richard 111 society, issued by Leicester University, St Nicholas - our Santa Claus - tended to come early in medieval times, well before the twelve days of Christmas, although his gifts were usually edible.

The article states: "Christmas was a time when rich and poor came together to celebrate, the rich providing for their less fortunate neighbours, it was also the occasion for subverting the normal rules of society.

"It was St Nicholas who was celebrated with his saint’s day falling on December 6. They believed that St Nicholas brought fruit, nuts, sweetmeats and spiced cakes; hence marzipan and gingerbread became associated with Christmas."

Another strong difference with Christmas now and then was the importance of Twelfth Night, the last day of Christmas, during the Middle Ages.

A special cake called "The Twelfth Night Cake" was often baked and some of the largest parties and feast of the season would actually take place on that day, January 5.

Sing we Yule comes to the Evesham Arts Centre on Tuesday December 13, from 8pm.

Tickets and further details on, 01386 446944.