Medieval Pagan Feasts

In the Middle Ages, the Festival of the Madmen and the Festival of the Ass or donkey were very popular.

The Festival of Madmen took place on Christmas day, December 25, New Year’s day or Epiphany and recalls the Roman Saturnalia. It is a time of liberty when servants become masters and masters servants. For the space of a single day, society’s values are turned upside down and religions derided.

In some towns, the Festival of the Ass was commemorated on Christmas Eve or during the second vespers on December 25: recalling the flight into Egypt, a young girl with babe in arms entered a church riding an ass or donkey. During the mass, all the prayers ended with "hee-haw". The Church quickly banned these celebrations which took on a sacrilegious character.