What is a Renaisssance Festival?
Renaissance Fairs Are Festivals of Spring
Renaissance fairs were celebrated as festivals of spring. A celebration of the end of another harsh winter, and the promise of the rebirth of the land and the new crops to come. The essentials of mediaeval life that were celebrated every year between the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
During the renaissance period, winters were known to be harsh, and many people failed to survive. You had to work to live in these far-off days, and those that were unable to work did not survive. What little food there was had to be hidden away before it was taken by the landowners and lords for their own winter stores. There were no shops to pop into in those days. You were left to forage for your own food, so there is no surprise in them celebrating the end of winter in this way.
Renaissance stands for ‘rebirth’: the rebirth of the countryside and the appearance of fresh young shoots and spring lambs and calves, promising a plentiful supply of grain and meat for the summer and autumn to come. The renaissance faires with their jesters and mummers, their actors and minstrels, were attended by everyone in the surrounding area who came to be entertained, fed and watered with the food and drink laid out for everybody to partake in the celebrations.
These periods of celebration of the end of winter and beginning of spring are reenacted in America and elsewhere in the world in the form of Renaissance Fairs that involve dressing up, entertainment and lots of food and drink presented to represent the period in history being celebrated.
Renaissance Fairs in America were originally intended to be reenactments of the real things, but are now a mix of the old and the new. Queen Elizabeth and her dandified consorts mix with characters wearing Lord of the Rings costumes, and authentically dressed lords and ladies with their renaissance costumes mix with the fictional Three Musketeers and others wearing popular movie costumes. Roast beef and English ale are on offer from landlords who don fantasy costumes made from their own imagination, while others eat pork with their fingers while supping a cup of mead or small beer.
The true English renaissance period occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries, during most of the Tudor reign. King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I are the two most famous monarchs of the era, and this is seen by the costumes worn by those who try to emulate them, in appearance if not in deeds. Traditional Renaissance Faires have the Elizabethan parade as part of their entertainment, with Queen Elizabeth and Henry VIII even sometimes appearing together. It might be taking a liberty with history, but it is entertaining.
Participants wear the costume that they deem suitable for the period, and it is not unknown for popular movie characters to make the occasional appearance, such as the foresaid Three Musketeers, and also Mary Queen of Scots, but with her body and head complete. Admission is normally required for these events, but is well worth the money. The food and drink are normally marvelous and frequently authentically cooked – or not, as the case may be!
Many American Renaissance Fairs insist on authenticity, not only in dress, but right through to the language used and music played. It is said that Henry VIII himself wrote the tune ‘Greensleeves’ and lutes and timbrels, or other forms of mediaeval drums, are the order of the day. Some ‘faires’ are based on a specific part of the renaissance period, or even a specific year, and many are given the name of a fictitious village or town.
Some are specifically Elizabethan with lots of Elizabeths, Sir Walter Raleighs and Francis Drakes mingling with the crowd. Ruffs and stockings form the neck a leg decoration of choice for men and women alike Renaissance fares can last for a day or a weekend, and the social events normally portray specific aspects of life during that period in English history, with cookery demonstrations and musical renditions using the instruments of the period. If you have a chance to attend one, don’t miss it.
A renaissance fare, or renaissance faire as it is often written, is not only an educational experience of what life was like before computers, cinema, TV and rock & roll, but also great fun. As you take part, just take a little time to quietly think about the life of ordinary people in these bygone days, and how harsh it must have been in the winter for its ending to be celebrated in this fashion.
About the author:
History Buff – Visit http://historicalweaponsstore.com/renaissance-costumes-ladies-renaissance-outfiits.html for elegant medieval costumes and accesories and schedules of renaissance faires all over the United States.