Tudor Christmas – Traditions

On the 6th December, Tudor people would often celebrate the Boy Bishop. The Church allowed a choirboy, elected by his peers, to be a Bishop during the period starting with St. Nicholas Day (6th December) until Holy Innocents Day (28th December). Within the period the chosen boy, symbolising the lowliest authority, would dress in full Bishop’s regalia and conduct the Church services. Many of the great cathedrals adopted this custom including York, Winchester, Salisbury, Canterbury and Westminster. Henry VIII abolished Boy Bishops, however a few churches continue the practice today.

On Twelfth Night the Tudors ate Twelfth cake. This was a fruitcake in which a hidden object like a coin or dried bean was hidden. If you were lucky enough to find the item in your cake you became the King or Queen for the evening and host or hostess for the night’s entertainments.

There was also the Lord of Misrule, which was a popular part of Tudor Christmas traditions. It involved a commoner playing the ‘Lord of Misrule’ and supervising entertainments, drinking and revelry, and, in general, causing chaos. Henry VII loved the tradition and had a Lord of Misrule and an Abbot of Unreason, and it seems that his son, Henry VIII, enjoyed the tradition too. Henry not only appointed a Lord of Misrule for his own court, but also for Princess Mary’s household in 1525. During Edward VI’s reign, the duke of Northumberland is known to have spent a huge amount of money on the tradition. Although their father and half-brother had been keen on this tradition, Mary I and Elizabeth were not so. Mary did not celebrate it and Elizabeth discouraged it because of her disliking of the public disorder that it caused.


Tudor Christmas – The Anne Boleyn Files

Tudor Christmas and New Year Celebrations – On the Tudor Trail

A Tudor Christmas – Historic UK


The Lord of Misrule


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