After the fall of Roman Empire, the social life and customs of general populace was deeply influenced by tumultuous periods of wars and political changes. As a result, the middle ages customs were basically an amalgamated mixture of Roman, Germanic and Gallic cultures and customs. This fusion of cultures was basically promoted by Kings and lords like Charlemagne. Customs of middle ages were also influenced by the religious movements like Christianity and Islamism.
It can be safely said that the culture and customs of medieval ages were the products of Pagan civilization, of Germanic barbarism, and of Christianity. The initial periods of middle ages saw the disintegration of political power which was gradually overshadowed by the effects of religious unity.
The imperial dominion of Roman Empire was successfully ended by barbarians; however, people in general failed to establish their liberty. Rather, they were forced to suffer lowest degrees of servitude. While Roman despots were culminated, people found thousands of tyrants trying to exploit them and that gave rise to feudalism which significantly changed the customs of general public.
Marriage customs & Women of medieval period
Under the feudal system, the position of women was precarious. Women of serfs and peasant class weren’t given enough opportunities to learn and study and they were expected to work hard along with their male partners for earning a living for their family. During the medieval period, concubinage and marriage both were considered socially acceptable and valid. According to customs of Middle Ages, there were two kinds of marriage, Muntehe marriage unions and Friedelehe marriage union.
Middle ages customs and dowry
Muntehe marriage customs were considered permanent which involved dowry and transfer of property from one family to other. On the other hand, Friedelehe marriage unions were considered official but temporary and they did not include permanent transfer of property.
In his book, “The Knight, The Lady, and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France,” Georges Duby, the great historian of France explains the difference between the two types of marriage customs of the medieval period as he said that in Friedelehe marriage unions, “the girl had been lent rather than given, but her relations had made the loan ceremonially, by contract, freely and in peace.”
In the same book, Duby noted that Charlemagne preferred to allow his daughters to marry through Friedelehe marriage customs of the middle ages but denied offering permission for Mutah marriage union. He opted to do so because allowing for Muntehe marriage union would have meant to permanently transfer control over her daughters and to completely transfer whatever property was given as a dowry to the other man.
However, with the increasing influence of the Church, marriage customs were forced to be binding for life, while Church also advocated polygamy as a custom. Gradually, the Church established certain guidelines to be followed to declare a sexual union as a legally valid and binding marriage custom which included; the partners need to be of equal ranks and they should be free to offer their consent; the woman must be given by her father and dowry was declared an essential custom, the marriage must be honored by the public in general.
Medieval Customs and Beauty
During the ceremonies, every part of a woman’s face was used to be painted with some type of cosmetic. They were allowed to pluck their hairline but they were not expected to wear their hair loose.
During the Early Middle Ages, people preferred to be very hygienic and there were public bathhouses in almost every town of the Middle Ages.
Natural perfumes produced by oils of flowers were used by people. People of the Middle Ages were also very interested in jewellery and they used various stones to express their personal characteristics, beliefs and hopes while, the same ornaments were also used to express one’s social status.
During the Middle Ages, the members of nobility used to wear elaborated and bright colored gowns and robes. There were not many significant differences between the dresses of male and female. Silk was considered as a costly cloth and the members of nobility used to wear silk clothes. Serfs weren’t in position of buying silk and in many areas, they weren’t allowed to wear silk too. Clothes of nobility were often designed and decorated with gold and silver lining which depicted various legends of nature or religion and they were used to be studded with beautiful and costly gems.
During the marriage ceremonies and castle feasts, roast quail, goose, venison, turtledoves and partridge, sanglier, roasted peacock, mutton, gilded and silvered calves’ head, cheeses, walnuts, fresh fruits, ale-flavored bread, stewed cabbage oysters steamed in almond milk, and spicy mulled wine was consumed.
Medieval Christmas customs
During the Middle Ages, Christmas was celebrated as a huge fair in which whole crowd was expected to take part and celebrate. The Church was gradually becoming the strongest power during the Middle Ages and as a result, Christian festivals were becoming important parts of tradition and customs.
However, the middle ages customs were a mixture of Roman, Germanic and Greek tradition. Christians adopted the pagan custom of burning the Yule log as a part of Christmas celebrations and people also adopted the tradition of taking customary drink Wassail during the Christmas celebrations.
Many other traditions and customs were added with the advancement of power of the Church. As for example, people started producing Mince Pies in oblong casing as they were considered to be representing Jesus’ crib. Customarily, it was necessary to add cinnamon, clove and nutmeg in the preparation of Mince Pies because these three spices were considered to be the three gifts given by the Magi to the Christ Child.
It was considered pious to eat one mince pie every day of the twelve days of Christmas. During the feast, people used to enjoy goose meat and Humble (or Umble) pie which was produced from humbles (brain, heart, liver and so forth) of deer. The barons, lords and knights used to enjoy the choice cuts from the meat, while their servants and serfs used to create a pie out of the remaining.