The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas
A musical pageant of the feast days between December 25 and January 6
as they were celebrated in England in the late Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, the Christmas season didn't end on December 25. Instead, the festivities were just beginning! The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas is a musical pageant that vividly re-creates some traditions of Christmastide to enrich the celebrations of both the audience and the performers. The days between December 25 and January 6 unfold with brief dramatic excerpts, saints' legends, liturgical selections, and secular poems, all from texts available in England in the late Middle Ages. Wassailers and kings, saints and sinners, noblewomen and soldiers make appearances for about an hour. Linking the segments are merry carols and haunting chants from the period.
The underpinnings of this pageant are clearly religious, based on the feast days of the medieval church, the commemorations that anchored the season. But The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas is not intended as a religious ritual or church service. It's family-friendly and can be enjoyed by people of all faiths—or of no faith—as a historical presentation about one of the world’s most beloved festival seasons. Although the narratives and songs are authentically medieval, the pageant has been crafted to be easily understood, with the Middle English and Latin translated into Modern English. The script is designed to be used in conjunction with music in the definitive New Oxford Book of Carols, eds Keyte and Parrott (1992), which should be purchased separately.
Note that this pageant is based on medieval Christian observances, not on the later song about a partridge in a pear tree!
Living history groups, churches, church-affiliated high schools and colleges, local theater companies, and early music ensembles will all find The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas a popular addition to their performance lineup.
Purchase complete materials for staging The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas here!
The dramatist, Karis Crawford, holds a PhD in medieval literature from the University of Toronto and a License from the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. She served as an associate editor for the Middle English Dictionary, taught medieval literature at the University of Michigan, and led a graduate writing program at Hamline University. In 2002 she produced and directed a presentation of The Medieval Twelve Days of Christmas in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for an audience of about 500.