The Old English Yuletide Feast
with Dr Sam Newton (Wuffing Education)
at the Suffolk Punch Trust, Hollesley (IP12 3JR)
on Saturday, 8th December, 2018
Rediscover the magic of Christmas with an exploration of the significance of the midwinter festival in early England and how it was celebrated. This will include a look at the Old English calendar, which reveals how the pre-Christian year was structured, and how it was transformed into the Christian year, in the light of early medieval art, poetry, and archaeology.
We begin the day with a look at the Old English calendar, which reveals how the pre-Christian year was structured. We shall then consider how this calendar was transformed into the Christian year – how, for example, did Módra Niht, “Mothers’ Night” become Christmas Eve? We shall also see some of the ways in which the Yuletide feast was celebrated in early England, using indications from archaeology, Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse literature. We shall finish the day with the charming account of Christmas at Camelot from the magnificent Middle English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
10.00 – 10.30: Coffee on arrival
10.30 – 11.30: The Old English Calendar
11.30 – 11.50: Coffee break
11.50 – 12.50: The Old English Yuletide Feast (1)
12.50 – 13.50: Lunch break
13.50 – 14.40: The Old English Yuletide Feast (2)
14.40 – 15.00: Tea break
15.00 – 15.50: Christmas at Camelot –Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
c.15.50: Thanks and Close
About Dr Sam Newton
Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991. He published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, in 1993, and his second, The Reckoning of King Rædwald: the Story of the King linked to the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, in 2003. He has also published several academic papers, some of which can be downloaded from his Academia webpage https://independent.academia.edu/SamNewton. He has lectured widely around the country and has contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team, for whom he has worked for seven series. He is a tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, an accredited NADFAS / Arts’ Society lecturer, and a Director of the Wuffing Education Study-Day Partnership at Sutton Hoo.
When asked “What was best about the day?” at a previous Study Day by Sam on the topic, people said:
- A wonderful range of sources and materials, explained with Sam’s characteristic enthusiasm and expertise. Great to have time for questions and discussion.
- The old English calendar linking nature, life, economy and its cheeky use in the transition to Christianity. Interesting and philosophy
- Excellent speaker, excellent sessions and excellent slides
- Singing and reading Anglo-Saxon, with English and the Francks casket
- Hearing old English spoken and sung
- Playing of the lyre. Informative and enjoyable in a relaxed way. Found the English calendar fascinating, listening to Sam read in middle English
Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading
- Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008).
- Barron, W.R.J. (ed. & tr.), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Manchester 1974).
- Branston, B., The Lost Gods of England (Thames & Hudson 1957, 1974).
- Chaney, W.A., The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester 1970).
- Ellis Davidson, H., The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe (Routledge 1993).
- Evans, A., The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial (British Museum 1986).
- Sturluson, Snorri, Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, tr. Lee Hollander, American-Scandinavian Foundation (Austin,
- Texas, 1964).
- Hutton, R., The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford 1996).
- Lee, C., Feasting the Dead: Food and Drink in Anglo-Saxon Burial Rituals (Woodbridge 2007).
- Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003).
- Orchard, A., Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (London 1997).
- Tolkien, J.R.R. (tr), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo, ed. C.Tolkien (Unwin 1975).
- Turville-Petre, E.O.G., Myth and Religion of the North – The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia (London 1964).