Easter is here! To celebrate, I've dropped the price of all my Highlander romances to between $0.99 and $2.99 for this weekend only. Now's the time to stock up in my first ever Spring sale!
Please do spread the word if you've friends out there you think should give my books a try. Give them this link to my Amazon book page: amazon.com/author/blanchedabney
Now on with the newsletter!
What do you know about medieval Easter?
During the period of Lent, for 40 days before Easter, certain foods were forbidden in the Middle Ages, namely meat, fat, milk, and eggs. To get around this, medieval cooks sometimes made imitation versions of certain dishes. In the 15th century for example, one cookbook contained a recipe for imitation egg made from almond paste.
"Eyroun in lentyn," = imitation eggs of almond paste for Lent, put the paste into a real egg shell with a yolk dyed from saffron.
"Take Eyroun & blow owt þat ys with-ynne ate oþer ende; þan waysshe þe schulle clene in warme Water; þan take gode mylke of Almaundys, & sette it on þe fyre; þan take a fayre canvas, & pore þe mylke þer-on, & lat renne owt þe water; þen take it owt on þe cloþe, & gader it to-gedere with a platere; þen putte sugre y-now þer-to; þan take þe halvyn- dele, & colour it with Safroun, a lytil, & do þer-to pouder Canelle; þan take & do of þe whyte in the neþer ende of þe schulle, & in þe myddel þe ȝolk, & fylle it vppe with þe whyte; but noȝt to fulle, for goyng ouer; þan setter it in þe fyre & roste it, & serue forth."
Decorated eggs celebrated the end of the ban once Lent was over, first documented in 1290 when Edward I paid for 450 eggs to be adorned in gold leaf at a cost of 18 pence (cheaper than today's Easter eggs!). Giving children an Easter egg hunt was a great way of using up all the eggs that would have gone off during Lent.
But what about Easter itself?
The Easter festival was the most important part of the medieval Christian calendar, so important that the New Year began not in January, but at Easter.
On Maundy Thursday the church altars were stripped and covered in twigs to symbolize the scourging of Jesus. On Friday nobody could use iron tools or nails without risking eternal damnation. The Passion story was read while a single candle held up high went slowly out to show darkness falling upon the world. All that would remain in the darkness was one candle on the altar, the light of Christ. The service itself was told in Latin.
Imagine hearing: "Miserere mei Deus secundum misericordiam tuam iuxta multitudinem miserationum tuarum dele iniquitates meas multum lava me ab iniquitate mea et a peccato meo munda me,"
and having no idea what the words meant. The congregation would have to turn to the images in the stained glass windows or those painted on the church walls to understand the story.
The Easter Sunday service began with hymns at dawn outside the church. The priest would lead the congregation inside for a joyful service. Then it was party time!
The Laird would give a feast for his people with no expense spared for the most important feast day of the Christian calendar. All workers got the day off, many people giving and receiving new clothes.
After Easter Sunday came the more scandalous Hock Monday and Hock Tuesday. On Monday young women captured young men and tied them to their beds, to be released only upon payment to the church, King Edward I himself falling victim to this game one year. On Tuesday it was the men's turn to do the same to the women. I wonder what Easter would be like if this particular tradition was revived?
Happy Easter whatever you're up to!