The Old English Yuletide Festival
with Dr Sam Newton (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 12th December, 2015.


Rediscover the magic of Christmas with a look at the history of the great midwinter festival, with special attention to the feasting vessels from Sutton Hoo and related sites, which together paint a picture of its significance and how it was celebrated in early England.

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 consider some of the ways in which the feast of Yuletide and the legend of the Nativity came to be celebrated in early England, using examples from Anglo-Saxon art, such as the Franks’ Casket, and from Old English and Old Norse literature.

Provisional Programme:

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The Old English Calendar

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                The Old English Yuletide Feast (1)

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 The Old English Yuletide Feast (2)

14.50 – 15.10:               Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                What has Wayland to do with Christ?

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Dr Sam Newton:

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team.. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education and an accredited NADFAS lecturer.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)

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 M. 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)

Mayr-Harting, H., The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd edn (Philadelphia 1991)

Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)

Orchard, A., Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (London 1997).

Turville-Petre, E.O.G., Myth and Religion of the North – The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia (London 1964)