Medieval Christmas traditions at Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex in a snowy winter setting

Many families have established their own Christmas traditions linked to Bodiam Castle. Take a look back at some of the Christmas traditions that would have been around when the castle was built in 1385.

Take a look at medieval Christmas traditions

Our Events Manager, Laura Blackwell, loves researching life in medieval England and at Christmas time this is no exception.  Her discoveries as to what traditions were celebrated at this festive time provide the basis for visitors to take a trip back in time to the late 1300s when they visit our castle at Christmas.
 
Laura says that most of her research about Christmas in medieval England seems to have lead her back to food, in particular Wassail cup and mince pie which we serve during our Christmas festivities at Bodiam Castle.
 

Wassail cup and mince pie

Wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar.  It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter.
 
Wassailing was traditionally done on New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night, but some rich people drank Wassail on all of the 12 days of Christmas.  Wassail was sometimes called 'Lamb's Wool' because the pulp from the roasted apples looked all frothy and a bit like Lamb's wool.
 
In medieval England a large mince pie, filled with shredded meat, spices and fruit, was baked at Christmas time.  Generally the meat was in poor condition, even rancid, and so the spices and fruit were needed to make it edible.  Today's mince pies are the result of a later change when the meat was omitted from the recipe.
Enjoy Christmas with us
Stack of Christmas mince pies

Christmas puddings

Did you know Christmas puddings originated as a 14th century porridge called 'frumenty' that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices?  The yolks of eggs were also added and, if available, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
 
This pudding would be more like a soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
Christmas pudding
A Christmas pudding

Boxing Day

Christmas Day was a difficult day for the poor as, being a 'Quarter Day', rent was due to the lord.  However at this time of the year on 'Boxing Day' the lord would give money to the poor in a hollow clay pot with a slit in the top, nicknamed 'piggies', which had to be broken to get the money out.  
 
Today we still have 'piggy banks' for collecting money, although most can be emptied rather than broken.