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Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

A Medieval Summer

My latest historical romance, To Touch The Knight, takes place in summer, a tense summer just after the outbreak of plague in 1348, when people are trying to return to normal.

In more usual years, summer for people in the Middle Ages was both very busy and a time of relaxation and pleasure. After the hard graft of winter and spring, May was a holiday month in early summer, with few tasks in the agricultural calendar. May Day, a blend of Christian and older pagan traditions, was celebrated by everyone, with dancing, revels and drink.

Later summer was a harder task-master: if a peasant worked on the land, later summer was when the sheep were sheared, then the hay and wheat harvests were gathered in. Summer, too, was often the prime time for military activity, when knights might be called to fight for their overlord or king on campaign. However, even in these months there was merry-making. Midsummer was marked by bonfires, a pagan ‘left-over’ from the earlier festival of Beltane and celebrated in the Middle Ages as the saint’s day of St John. Young couples would sometimes leap over the midsummer bonfire for luck. Wells could also be dressed with flowers around this time – a relic of earlier water-spirit worship.

July was marked by St Swithin’s day, when the strewings in the churches would be changed from the winter rushes and straw to the summer hay and sedges, and August saw the feast time of Lammas – loaf mass – to give thanks for the hard-won harvest.


suzanne said...

Hi Lindsay:
I love the topic of medieval summer and your brief explanation of the festivals and how they were remnants of pagan celebrations given different names.

Even in Ireland today, St. John's Day (or night) is celebrated with a bonfire.

cheryl c said...

I enjoyed hearing about medieval celebrations!
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susan said...

Enjoyed the medieval celebrations and events during that time. Every year we have a fair to celebrate medieval times and it draws crowds from all over the states. susan Leech

Maggi Sherwin said...

Hello Lindsay,
In the British Isles, many of these medieval festivals have their beginnings in the pre-Roman world. The Christian church, like the Romans before them, were pragmatic and would amalgamate Celtic festivals with ther own saints' days.

Lately I've been reading historical novels set in the medieval period and I'm enjoying them.

Celia Yeary said...

Lindsay--very intriguing. Even after a plague, people like to celebrate--and with all the right stuff.
Congratulations on your Knight books--I'm certain they are very good.Celia

Gabby said...

I found your post kind of intriguing! The medieval time period is sort one of my favorites when it comes to reading.

It's also kind of cool that celebrated to the hilt like that even after something so horrible happened to them. It's pretty admirable!

Thanks for the neat post!

MarthaE said...

I learned quite a bit just from this post. It seems like a romantic time but it was very brutal and harsh too. Thanks!

Linda Banche said...

I love to read about these holidays, and how we still have them today.