Medieval Festivals

A large number of festivals were celebrated during the medieval period, including both religious and secular festivals.

Most of the festivals marked a religious occasion while some were meant to celebrate the arrival of spring and other turns of seasons.

St. Valentine’s Day

Among the most popular medieval festivals were Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, Easter, and Halloween. On the occasion of the festivals, the rich and the poor alike usually took the day off and partook in the festivities.

St. Valentine’s Day was the most important medieval festival in the month of February. The festival was celebrated on the 14th of February and all the festivities on the occasion had to be related to love. It was believed in the medieval ages that February 14 marked the time when birds began to seek their mates and so the festival was also considered a natural occasion for love.

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, lovers would exchange notes and Love Lanterns were one of the most popular decorations. Fortune telling was also a popular activity on the occasion.

Shrine of Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland

Shrine of Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland


Christmas was one of the most elaborate and highly anticipated festivals of the medieval period. Christmas celebrations began in the last week of December and continued until the fifth of January.

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During this period, castles were richly decorated and tables were set for guests amidst well place ivy throughout the dining hall. Decorations involving green plants were usually meant as a prayer to seek a good harvest the next year.

Medieval Christmas Scene

It was a tradition in medieval Europe to do every activity twelve times during this period, reflecting the twelve days of Christmas celebrations. So a toast after a feast was typically made twelve times and everyone would strive to exchange at least twelve gifts with others.

Nativity of Christ Medieval Christmas Hortus Deliciarum Die Geburt Christi

Medieval Christmas Nativity Play


The Easter celebrations in the medieval period took place after forty days of religious fasting and abstinence. As part of the Easter festivities, a castle’s lord would typically serve his servants at a special feast.

Most people wore new clothes for the occasion and a part of Easter decorations were the Easter eggs. These eggs were hard-boiled and then painted in various colors. They were then hidden by the adults, to be found by the children who would then spend the day playing with them.

‘Hock Monday’ was celebrated as a part of Easter celebrations where young women would capture young men who would then have to ransom themselves. The money collected in this way went to the local church as a donation.

Calendar of the dates of Easter, for the years 532–632 (marble, in Museum of Ravenna Cathedral, Italy).


Halloween was another popular festival during the medieval period. Celebrated in October just at the beginning of the winter, the festival typically involved activities related to ghosts and spirits, often in fun and entertaining ways.

A popular activity for the children on the occasion was to wear masks of different kinds and walk through the streets of the village or town. Many feasts and games specific to Halloween also took place at the time. Notable among Halloween-related activities were fortune-telling and Apple Bobbing.

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