Medieval Facts & Myths: The Feast of Fools - A Forgotten New Year Tradition
Celebrated on January 1st, the Feast of Fools began in medieval France and spread to most of Europe. Dating back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, this once-popular holiday turned the table on those in power.
Peasants dressed up and lampooned the gentry. Serfs could criticize their lords without punishment. Cross-dressing and lewd behavior along with drinking and gambling were the order of the day. In some regions, a mock pope held ecclesiastical court.
Not surprisingly, as the Feast of Fools celebrations grew, so did the official backlash. In fact, most of what we know about this tradition comes from the writing of clerics and lords criticizing the holiday.
[Shameless plug] In KING ROBIN, protagonist Robert Webber uses the Feast of Fools celebration in London to remain incognito from Prince John's spies.
Some say the silly hats, noise makers and revelry of our present-day New Year’s festivities are an echo of the Feast of Fools. Bottoms up to that.
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