Old English feasts launch the yule season around the West Essay

Old England’s holiday feasts may not have been tastier than
ours, but it seems as if they were more fun.

From the Middle Ages through the 1870s, people gathered in great
candlelit halls for nights of feasting and revelry. The gentry joined
with peasant wenches and rogues, drinking toasts and welcoming each
course with ceremonial trumpets. Though boisterous and bawdy, they fell
silent when the lutes, recorders, and harps began to play and madrigal
singers took up their musical embroidery.

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Happily, such times aren’t lost. Period feasts have been part
of the Christmas holiday scene in the West at least since 1927, when the
Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park launched its first Bracebridge
Dinner. Yosemite has the oldest, most sought-after (10,000 people apply
for 1,000 spots), and most expensive dinner ($83 per person), but many
other Feasts are now held in the West.

Many are hosted by college and university music or theater
departments 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 the
lively 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 by
participation: in Phoenix, the “Lord High Commissioner” may
grant forgiveness for a year’s lusting and gluttony to some wayward
guest; in Logan, Utah, a woman who forgets to kiss the man who keeps the
salt may require her entire table to offer up a carol. Costume is
usually optional.

Many feasts sell out fast, so sign up quickly if you wish to join
in, or get your name on a mailing list for next year.

Our listing is alphabetical by state, then by date. Prices are per
person; unless noted, there is no discount for children.

We include dates for events held by the Society for Creative
Anachronism, (SCA), a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to
re-creating the atmosphere of the Middle Ages, which has 170 chapters in
the West. Prospective members are welcome to attend. For details on
events listed, or information about SCA groups in your area, write or
call Sandra dodd, President, Society for Creative Anachronism, 8116
Princess Jeanne Ave. N.E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87110; (505) 299-2476.
Include a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope.


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