Book Review: “A Tudor Christmas” by Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke

imageChristmas is seen today as a time of gift giving, twinkling lights and joy. We often celebrate it only one day a year, on December 25th, and then we celebrate a few days later the New Year from December 31st to January 1st. However, in the past, Christmas and New Years were a part of 12 days of celebrations. We often think that our traditions for Christmas date from the time of the Victorians, but that may not be the case. In fact, some of our more time-honored traditions for the holidays may in fact date from the Tudors and further back in history. So what are these traditions and how was Christmas celebrated in the time of the Tudors? That is the topic that Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke wanted to explore in their book, “A Tudor Christmas”.

Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke lay out the premise of this fascinating book:

In this book, we will be exploring all the fascinating aspects of a Tudor Christmas: how it was kept by ordinary people, and how the court celebrated, for what happened at court had a strong influence on what happened elsewhere. The Tudor period was an age of momentous and divisive religious change, with the Reformation of the 1530s severing ties with the Pope and the Church of Rome, and the establishment in 1559, under Elizabeth I, of the Protestant Anglican Church; and it is interesting to explore how this impacted on the way people celebrated Christmas. We have also broadened the scope of the book to embrace the pagan and medieval origins of the various customs, and to look at what transpired in the seventeenth century- when England became a Puritan republic- to interrupt the centuries-old traditional celebration of  Christmas, and how those observances were preserved. (Weir and Clarke, 10-11).  

This delightful little book, which happens to be less than 200 pages, is broken down into chapters which represent the days of Christmastide, from December 24th until January 6th. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the Christmas season. Food, decorations, carols, games, pageants, and masques all had important roles to play in the entire Christmas season. The number of details, the drawings at the beginning of every chapter,  and the poetry included really enhanced the reading experience and made the whole idea of a Tudor Christmas come alive. It also shows how the changing religious environment really impacted the celebration of Christmas and even had it banned for a time.

As someone who is somewhat aware of some Christmas traditions and their origins, I found this book extremely informative. It is the perfect book to read while drinking a cup of hot chocolate or tea, sitting in a comfortable chair with a blanket. It will put you in the holiday spirit. I have always wondered what Christmas was like during the time of the Tudors and this book exceeded my expectations. If you want a book that gets you into the holiday spirit while learning more about how the Tudors celebrated Christmas, I highly recommend you read, “A Tudor Christmas” by Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke. It is the perfect book for the holiday season for any Tudor nerd.

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