Feast Days in Medieval England

Jennifer asked a question about Feast days… so here is a list of the main ones in Medieval England, for the year 1200 – since as Les noted, Easter floats. The ones in blue are not crucial.

Date

Feast Days

25th December

Christmas Day

26th December

St Stephen

17th December

St John the Evangelist

28th December

Innocents

29th December

St Thomas Becket

31st December

St Silvester

1 January

Octave of Christmas

6th January

Epiphany

20th January

Sts Fabian and Sebastian

21st  January

St Agnes

22nd January

St Vincent

2nd February

Purification of the Virgin Mary (Candlemas)

5th February

St Agatha

25th February

St Matthias

12th March

St Gregory

21st March

St Benedict

25th March

Annunciation

9th April

Easter

23rd April

St George

1st May

Sts Phillip and James

15-17th May

Rogation days

18th May

Ascension

28th May

Pentecost

11th June

St Barnabas

24th June

St john the Baptist

29th June

Sts Peter and Paul

20th July

St Margaret

22nd July

St Mary Magdalene

25th July

St James

10th August

St Lawrence

15th August

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

24th August

St Bartholomew

29th August

Beheading of St John the Baptist

8th September

Nativity of the Virgin Mary

14th September

Exaltation of the Cross

21st September

St Matthew

9th October

St Denis

28th October

Sts Simon and Jude

1st November

All Saints

11th November

Martinmas

22nd November

St Cecilia

30th November

St Andrew

6th December

St Nicholas

13th December

St Lucy

21st December

St Thomas the Apostle

14 thoughts on “Feast Days in Medieval England

  1. Thank you! I guess I am right to complain about only having 11 holidays a year. However I am willing to give a number of holidays to keep flush toilets.

    1. Not quite sure that was true. Farming at that point was famous for its inefficiency. Peasants often worked under the rubric of “you pretend to pay me and I’ll pretend to work”. Tending to the Manor Farm would have likely taken no more than 100 days. Personal plots and other tasks took up the feast days.

  2. I have a reference in a piece of litigation dated 1685 which refers to the “ffeast day of St: Ldellen and the ffeast day of St: Martin the Bishop”. Now the later is obviously St. Martin of Tours on Martinmas, but what is the former. I’ve probably misread the writing but can you make any suggestions. I suspect the former is about six months distant from the latter as the litigation talks about “equall portons”.

  3. To follow up on the illuminating comment by Jonathan Fuller, I was reading online recently, and I learned some facts that are catnip for the medievalist. According to some scholarly estimates, the average feudal serf did not toil as long and hard as one might suppose. Between holidays, Sabbath Day observance and other medieval customs, your average serf could be expected to work, surprise, surprise; an average of 40 hours per week! Of course they worked from first light until dark, but with all those days off, what matter was that?

    A far cry from the labors of the poor industrial workers of the Victorian era, those benighted toilers whom Dickens spoke for with righteous fury and indignation. A far cry from the modern techno-serf driving for Uber, an insecure laborer often forced to work 7 days per week to secure their daily bread. And how many of us are told, nay, COMMANDED to respond to our employer’s texts and emails forthwith, “day off” or not?

    The Enlightenment and Modern Efficiency were supposed to be liberatory for the Common Man. Thank you for the flush toilets and medical facilities, Enlightenment, but to what extent do the proverbial They want us to be healthy and sanitary MERELY to labor our lives away? To what extent were we sold a false bill of goods? Time will tell, I suppose.

    1. Yes it’s pretty clear that the for a good long period – maybe as much as 3 generations? – the industrial revolution was very hard on ordinary people. in 1740 England was a high wage economy; the real wages of the working class don’t really rise until after the 1830s I think, and meanwhile in the 1830s-60s in particular mechanisation and factories drive a coach and horses through traditional life – the working day becomes 12 hours a day, structured, relentless; and if its bad for men its worse for women. Until you get the working day legislation, and real wages begin to rise in the last quarter of 19th century. Of course its easy to be critical – but this had never happened before, anywhere in the word any time. Britain had no template to follow. So it took some time to work through.

  4. Latin texts refer to Mathei the apostle to distinguish between St Mathei and St Matthew – would be good to add the words “the apostle” to St Matthew above. Great work.

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