The history of Christmas part 2: A medieval ‘Christes Maesse’

In the 4th Century AD the Christian Church chose December 25 as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth.

Inside the church the day was all about quiet prayer and reflection. Three church services would be held to celebrate mass, one at midnight, dawn and another during the day.

Outside the church people celebrated as they had always done at this time of year, with songs, Carols were sung in the streets, and singers would walk from house to house. In houses there were banquets, the winter evergreen boughs of holly, ivy, yew and rosemary were cut and brought inside to decorate houses, and gifts were exchanged in accordance with the Roman tradition, usually at the New Year.

The first published mention of Christmas appears in an English Saxon book written in 1038, ‘Christes Maesse’.

In 1066 following the Norman invasion of Britain, William the Conqueror chose Christmas day to be crowned king in Westminster Abbey in London. The celebrations and cheers within the Westminster Abbey at the moment he was crowned were so loud his guards outside thought he was being attacked and stormed in only to cause a riot that spread into the streets and resulted in a mob setting houses around Westminster Abbey alight.

Sign up to receive my new newsletter here