An opportunity to feel satisfied with your festive lot was provided by Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas, a seasonal special of BBC2's living history series, which gave us the lowdown on how a Tudor farmstead would have celebrated. On the one hand, they did get a whole 12 days off work – the luxury! – for a festive period which began on 25 December and extended well into January. On the other hand, the partying was preceded by Advent's four weeks of fasting and back-breaking toil.
Regular TMF viewers will have been unsurprised at the enthusiasm with which historian Ruth Goodman took to the various kitchen labours, including scraping the skin off a pig's skull (the Tudor's preferred stuffed pig's head to turkey. Strange Tudors) and risking life and limb to ignite a huge furnace for pie-baking. Meanwhile, the boys, Tom Pinfold and Peter Ginn, were having slightly less fun outdoors chopping holly and ivy to decorate the hall for feasting.
All of the many forgotten Christmas traditions were fascinating, but the greatest insight came from folklore expert Professor Ronald Hutton, who pointed out the continuity between the Roman's Saturnalia, the Viking yule, Tudor festivities and our modern Christmas. In every midwinter festival throughout Northern Europe and throughout history, there are three constant components: feasting, lighting, and greenery: "It's bringing in whatever is still green in the woods to remind us that out there life is still going on. It's really good therapy."
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