What a Tudor Christmas was like

Castle, History

A Tudor Christmas was a time for communities to come together, to visit neighbours and tenants.

Christmas Eve was for fasting and you were not allowed to eat cheese, eggs or meat.

Christmas Day for the Tudors saw religion practised with masses and religious pieces sung before tapers were lit and it was time to return home for a meal such as a boar’s head.

Food for a big part of a Tudor Christmas. Turkey as a Christmas tradition was introduced in the 1520s and King Henry VIII was among the first to enjoy it as part of a festive meal.

‘Mince pyes’ were also enjoyed as part of a Tudor Christmas and had a religious significance, containing 13 ingredients to mark Christ and his disciples including dried fruits and spices as well as chopped mutton.

On Twelfth Night a special Twelfth cake was enjoyed. It was a fruitcake containing a coin or a dried bean. The person to find the hidden object became King or Queen for the evening and host of the entertainment.

Christmas was about rest for the Tudors. A time when work on the land stopped and women stopped spinning. Flowers were put on the spinning wheels to stop their use.

Christmas trees were not a tradition adopted by the Tudors. A Tudor Christmas saw homes decorated on Christmas Eve with mistletoe, holly, ivy, yew and laurel and carols were sung.

A large log was chosen on the day before Christmas, decorated with ribbons and laid on the hearth. It was then kept alight throughout the twelve days of Christmas (25 December to 6 January) to mark a Tudor Christmas.

Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, holds an annual Christmas event which sees the Castle beautifully decorated with welcoming log fires and twinkling trees. Outside in the grounds visitors can also take part in an interactive festive trail and as dusk falls the gardens are illuminated with uplighting and colour washes.

Read more about Hever Castle’s plans for Christmas

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