AT December’s meeting we had a talk by Mairi Macdonald on 'Medieval Christmas Customs and their Origins'.
Mairi described the pagan origins of Christmas, including the Roman Midwinter festivals symbolising the hope for new life and growth and Scandinavian Yule customs including the belief that the souls of the Heroes left Valhalla and drove through the sky with Odin and his eight legged horse, delivering presents. Sound familiar?
In the C4th the church named 25th December as the date of the Nativity, which coincided with a Mithraic festival of the triumph of Light over Evil.
Many medieval religious traditions have largely fallen out of use including St Nicholas Day, Holy Innocents on Dec 28th, and Twelfth Night.
Medieval decorations involved greenery with symbolic meaning eg, holly (male) and ivy(female) for fertility and mistletoe with its ancient druidic origins.
Special foods were prepared and wassailing practiced : symbolically pouring ale on the roots of fruit trees, while creating lots of noise to 'wake them up'.
Entertainment included indoor games, and plays such as the Mummers', whose characters included 'Father Christmas', dressed in green rather than red !
The evening was suitably rounded off with mulled wine and Christmas biscuits.