Christmastide in Camelot

Sir Gawain and King Arthur, with (below) the Green Knight [British Library] http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-online.html
Sir Gawain and King Arthur and (below) the Green Knight after Gawain had done the deed (British Library)
http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-online.html

This king [Arthur] lodged at Camylot over Krystmasse with many a fair lord, the best of men, those noble brothers in arms all worthily of the Round Table, fittingly with fine revelry and care-free pleasures. On very many occasions they tourneyed there; these noble knights jousted very gallantly, and afterwards rode to court to dance and sing carols. For the feast was the same there for the whole fifteen days, with all the meat and mirth that men could devise.

Such raucous fun and merriment to hear, noise by day and dancing by night, all was utmost joyousness in halls and chambers with lords and ladies as best delighted them. With all the joy in the world they abode there together, the most famed knights save Christ himself and the loveliest ladies that ever lived, and the comeliest king reigning, for all these fair folk in the hall were in the prime of their life.

The most fortunate under heaven, the king the greatest in temperament — it would now be hard to describe so sturdy a host on that hill.

• Literal translation of an extract from the 14C poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the unique manuscript of which is in the British Library.

Christmastide — which runs from Christmas Day to Epiphany (January 5th) — represents the original Twelve Days of Christmas; this traditionally marked the seasonal turnaround after the dark days of midwinter. To the medieval mind a legendary Arthurian court would naturally have celebrated it too.

Also known as Yuletide, this was a time when, in historic times, carollers would go round wassailing, wishing neighbours and drinking their health from a wassail bowl. However, unlike with this Arthurian Christmas, there wouldn’t usually be an offer from a Green Knight to chop his head off, so long as he could do the same to you a year and a day later …

In the words of the Gloucestershire Wassail I wish you, my fellow bloggers, the very best for this holiday season, with a promise to resurface sometime between Christmas and the New Year:

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

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18 thoughts on “Christmastide in Camelot

  1. inkbiotic

    They do this wassailing at my work, we grow our own apples and this year was a bumper harvest. So glasses raised to you calmgrove, after this things can only get better!

    1. I’d love to attend an apple wassail, you’d think that after years of living in Bristol I might have got to see it! Ah well, we’re not far from Herefordshire now, so …

      Anyway, waes hael to you too, Petra!

    1. I name him Gate Crasher, Party Pooper, Fearsome First Footer, Hogmanay Ogre. Ah well, some wassailers were always much too rowdy! Have a delightful Christmas, both of you, but don’t get off your heads on anyhing too strong, now … 🙂

  2. I can’t top any of the other comments, Chris, so just sending you and your family best wishes for the holidays from the cold and snowy Cascades where, instead of knights errant, we have heat-seeking pine beetles photo-bombing our Christmas celebrations. “Gerroff, you mangy cur!”

    1. Pine beetles, eh, not a problem with our artificial tree…

      Anyway, God Jul to you, Lizzie, way over there in your winter wonderland. We’re having a quiet one here, especially with me recovering after a routine minor op. Lots of films on tv at least!

  3. elmediat

    Hope all was well & true, now filling your heart with happy memories. 🙂
    We have been boxed in for Boxing Day in our little part of Canada. Warm air from the States has sent our precipitation into a mix of all manner of water ( drizzle wet, granular & freezing).

    1. Thanks, Joseph, all that and more. But none of the white stuff, granular or otherwise, just the odd bit of ‘Welsh mist’ yesterday and cold and clear today. White Christmas it certainly wasn’t — hope your being ‘boxed in’ isn’t on the wrong side of just charming.

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