How Christmas Was Celebrated in the Middle Ages

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Long before Santa Claus, caroling and light-strewn Christmas trees, people in medieval Europe celebrated the Christmas season with 12 full days of feasting and revelry culminating with Twelfth Night and the raucous crowning of a “King of Misrule.”

Christmas in the Middle Ages was preceded by the month-long fast of Advent, during which Christians avoided rich foods and overindulgence. But all bets were off starting on the morning of December 25, according to Anne Lawrence-Mathers, a historian at the University of Reading in the UK where she specializes in medieval England, a period that runs roughly from the 5th century A.D. to 1500 A.D. 



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