Holidays

New Year’s Day through the Ages

Imagine if it was 1582!

As with many of the holidays, a lot of our fans are curious as to how people treated these specific days during the Medieval and Renaissance time periods. Since the most relevant holiday is the start of the New Year, we thought we would give a brief history and overview of what things were like during the era we all know and love.

As with most of our traditions, the origin of the celebration of the first of the year came with the Romans. The Roman calender initially only included ten months, with the start of the year coming on March 1st. This date was chosen due to its proximity to the vernal equinox.

In the year 700 B.C., the Roman King Numa Pontilius included January and February to the calendar. Eventually, in 153 B.C. January 1st became the new start of the year. This change was made because it was regarded as the start of the civil terms of elected officials within the Roman political system. Each January 1st would mark the election of the two new Consuls, which were the high public official the Roman Republic.

During the Middle Ages, many religious organizations abolished the 1st of January as start of the year as it was considered to be pagan. Many religious officials that would wear Medieval Priest Robes called for Christian communities to observe the first of the year to be either the birth of Jesus, December 25th, or the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th. The official repeal of January 1st was in 567 due to the Council of Tours.

Finally, in 1582, the calendar year was reformed via the Gregorian calendar. This called for the first of the year to once again coincide with the beginning of January. This became the popular and widely accepted custom throughout the Catholic world. This change was more of a gradual process for Protestant communities, with a prime example being the British Empire. Up until the year 1752, England and all of their colonies, which included America, still recognized March as being the start of the New Year.

That is a brief overview of the history of the holiday. We hope this help answered some of the questions you may have had. We also hope that for this year, you are able to achieve your New Year’s Resolution.

Medieval Winter Food Preservation

Create authentic food for medieval celebrations

From time to time we like to bring you recipes that have a Medieval flair to them so that you can include period food during your reenactments or  LARP event. And so we realized that when it comes to the Middle Ages,  there is something that takes precedence when it comes to food: Preservation.

 

Since there were no means of freezing or refrigeration, tavern owners needed to adopt other methods of making their food harvested during Autumn last through the Winter. Here are some of the more popular methods, other than salting, that were used:

 

-Smoking: Smoking via wood smoke was the common way to preserve fish or pork.

 

-Drying: Grains, cereals, meats, and fruit could be preserved through drying.

 

-Picking: Substances high in salt such as brine, or liquids like vinegar, were the usual methods of preserving fish and others meats. This was also a great way to keep vegetables longer into the colder months.

 

-Honey: When it came to certain drinks, such as mead, honey was sometimes used as a way to preserve the eventual mixture.

 

-Gelatin: Meat and fresh fish could be well kept by cooking them in a material that will eventually produce and solidify into a gel.

 

These are just some of the methods used during those times. If you ever wanted to give your customers/players a true sense of historical food, you can consider trying one of these preservation techniques. It can also be an educational process if you have your servers, who are dressed in beer wench costumes, work with your customers/players in assisting with some of these methods so that they can learn how people had to prepare for the winter months in the Middle Ages.

Thanksgiving Traditions: The First Thanksgiving

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is said to have gotten its start at a three day feast that some of the earliest settlers had along with their Native American neighbors. They had the feast in order to celebrate a successful harvest after a brutal winter the year before. This original dinner has expanded into one of the most important days of the year in terms of feasting and spending time with friends and family.

 

A lot of people often wonder what the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate at the first Thanksgiving. You might be surprised to learn what was and wasn’t available. Although there are few accounts that describe the menu detail by detail, there are a few letters with specific details, along with educated deductions based upon what was available at the time.

 

Items that most likely would have been found:

 

-Venison

-Waterfowl

-Wild Turkey (though most likely not prepared the way we are used to it)

-Native Fruits: Plums, melons, grapes, & cranberries

-Local Vegetables: Wild onions, leeks, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and squash

-Transplanted English crops: Thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, and turnips

-Fish and shellfish

 

Despite the fact that this is regarded as the first Thanksgiving, there are well documented traditions throughout history all around the world of people having celebratory feasts this time of year in honor of the harvest. There are records that go as far back as the Greeks and Egyptians. If you ever wanted to consider having a Renaissance-themed Thanksgiving dinner, then you should feel free. You can even have the hostess serve the dishes wearing a Renaissance wench outfit.

 

Whatever way you celebrate Thanksgiving, or whatever you like to place on your table, please be sure to have an enjoyable holiday!