Old English feasts launch the yule season around the West Essay

Old England’s holiday feasts may not have been tastier thanours, but it seems as if they were more fun. From the Middle Ages through the 1870s, people gathered in greatcandlelit halls for nights of feasting and revelry. The gentry joinedwith peasant wenches and rogues, drinking toasts and welcoming eachcourse with ceremonial trumpets. Though boisterous and bawdy, they fellsilent when the lutes, recorders, and harps began to play and madrigalsingers took up their musical embroidery. Happily, such times aren’t lost. Period feasts have been partof the Christmas holiday scene in the West at least since 1927, when theAhwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park launched its first BracebridgeDinner. Yosemite has the oldest, most sought-after (10,000 people applyfor 1,000 spots), and most expensive dinner ($83 per person), but manyother Feasts are now held in the West. Many are hosted by college and university music or theaterdepartments and are staged in student unions.

Some are in churches.Others are put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Considering the food offered–usually around seven courses–and thelively entertainment–everything from dancing and singing to jesters,swordsmen, and magicians–prices are reasonable, most of them less than$25 per person. Meant to be fun, these events also teach period manners byparticipation: in Phoenix, the “Lord High Commissioner” maygrant forgiveness for a year’s lusting and gluttony to some waywardguest; in Logan, Utah, a woman who forgets to kiss the man who keeps thesalt may require her entire table to offer up a carol. Costume isusually optional. Many feasts sell out fast, so sign up quickly if you wish to joinin, or get your name on a mailing list for next year. Our listing is alphabetical by state, then by date. Prices are perperson; unless noted, there is no discount for children.

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We include dates for events held by the Society for CreativeAnachronism, (SCA), a nonprofit educational organization dedicated tore-creating the atmosphere of the Middle Ages, which has 170 chapters inthe West. Prospective members are welcome to attend. For details onevents listed, or information about SCA groups in your area, write orcall Sandra dodd, President, Society for Creative Anachronism, 8116Princess Jeanne Ave. N.

E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87110; (505) 299-2476.Include a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope.


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