Medieval Romance for VillagersEngland has always been an extremely class based society, and mobility between classes was all but forbidden. It's very hard for us to really imagine this, in a modern time where people can become rich or poor, world famous or a nobody in the blink of an eye. In many ways we are EXTREMELY fortunate in how open our modern society is (at least in most of the cultures). In medieval England, based on a feudal society, who your parents were meant everything. If you were rich - but of a poor family - you were still low class.
For a perfect example of this attitude, read Persuasion by Jane Austin. This book was written in the early 1800s and still clearly reverberates with that feudal system. Even at that date, the rules were only beginning to bend slightly.
While modern people might look back and think it was the nobles that had it easy in medieval times, with their big castles and fancy lives, they actually were bound by far more rules than the villagers were. The villagers in medieval times ate well - fresh veggies and fruit from their gardens, fresh eggs and poultry and geese from their yards. They enjoyed a fun, active social life with singing and dancing. Best of all, there were no complex rules about who they could marry! There were not thousands of acres of land riding on their choice. They, by and large, could fall in love with someone and be with him or her for the rest of their lives.
A wedding was the celebration of continued life for the village. Every village needed a constant supply of children just to stay alive. Only 40% of children survived to age 10. Women had to marry and create children to keep the village populated with bakers, farmers, blacksmiths and other key individuals.
There was also the issue of childbirth. Up to 1/5 women died in childbirth - either from the act of birthing a child itself or from complications following the birth. At the time, the church taught that childbirth was "Eve's Pain" and that it was a time of suffering for women that women deserved. Women were told not to take medicine for the pain or other issues. With the high mortality rate of children and of childbearing women, you can see how much the village would want to encourage marriage - and to actively celebrate each time a new couple was joined together.
Many festivals in medieval times would celebrate fertility and marriage. May Day - the ringing in of spring - is a festival celebrated in pretty much every world culture. Spring is the time of new life, of new growth, of romance. But really, medieval folk looked every day for an occasion to celebrate life. They knew all too well how brief it could be, and how vital it was to enjoy each day.
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