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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Culture and Leisure


By John R Burnett

The medieval calendar was the calendar of the church. Some holy days or holidays were held on saints' days; in Glasgow, St Kentigern (13 January) and St Peter and St Paul (29 June) were among the greater holidays. Others were on important days relating to the life of Christ such as the Annunciation, Christmas, and the sequence of holidays from Shrove Tuesday (Fastern's E'en in Scotland), through Lent, to Easter and on to Corpus Christi, the Thursday after Whitsunday, the latter being the seventh Sunday after Easter. The exact date of all the holidays from Shrove Tuesday to Corpus Christi varied, being dependent on the date of Easter, itself a moveable feast. Although some holidays were complete days away from work, on others mass was held and there might be a modest celebration in the evening and perhaps special food. The greatest feasting was at Christmas and on Fastern's E'en, which was the day before the start of Lent's forty days of fasting.

Secular customs were enacted on days which had religious significance. For example, at Whitsunday, the lanimer was held – the beating of the bounds of the burgh, which is still performed at Lanark. As time went on, new meaning was given to holidays. The first guilds were recognised by the burgh of Glasgow in 1516 when it gave a Seal of Cause to the skinners and furriers. At the same time, however, they were given the right to hold a religious celebration of their crafts on the Sunday after St James's Day (25 July).

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