Welcome ladies and villeins to a very medieval Christmas with Under The Yoke.
I've been a little stuck on what to write for this devlog, last year at Christmas time we discussed Christmas celebrations during the medieval period, then at halloween we discussed how special holidays are represented in Under The Yoke. So, what is there left to discuss?
Winter in the middle ages
Let's tackle a whole season at once.
To set the (very basic) stage of the medieval farming calendar, in Spring you have ploughing and sowing, in Summer you have harvesting, in Autumn you have different ploughing and sowing, so what do you have in Winter?
Well, in the dead of Winter, there's not that much field work that can be done, they've been ploughed, the seeds are sown and the ground is too frozen to worry about weeds.
What about the animals then?
Most animals are kept on common land in from Spring to Autumn and in Winter will need to be brought somewhere where they can be protected from the cold, either a barn or even your own cottage. That is, if you're not a serf. As a serf your animals would be folded into the Lord's animals, depriving you of an important source of fertiliser. Still, the animals will need fodder as they can no longer graze.
So, that leaves your peasant with a lot of free time? Not quite.
There are still plenty of jobs that need doing, the aforementioned animals will still need some care, those animals that you can't feed through winter will need butchering and their meats preserving. There are also plenty of jobs inside the home to work on, spinning wool or fixing tools, building furniture, home maintenance as well as domestic chores.
With the days getting shorter you'd also find yourself in the dark a lot more. For fancy peasants you might have some candles, though you'd likely sell your beeswax candles to the monastery, so you'd be left with tallow candles which give off a rather smokey glow, or if you're really struggling, rushlights, a piece of the rush plant dipped in tallow. Plus it's probably pretty damn cold, so without modern insulation and heating you're going to need a whole lot of fire wood to keep your home warm and to bundle yourself in warm coats, squirrel fur being a favourite for the wealthy peasantry, wool being the favourite for everyone else.
Though peasant life did not grind down to a halt during Winter, it certainly did slow down a little. With the roads being frozen over and weather becoming unpredictable, the whole country must have seemed to slow down, as people stayed safe in their villages.
Of course there were festivals and feasts to look forward to, with holy days all around the Christmas season, though you can read last year's article for that.
Under The Yoke mirrors medieval life exactly in Winter, where you'll spend more time on the Home Screen than out in the fields as the jobs turn from gathering to processing. You'll put your family to work on the loom, the oven, the carpentry table or wherever else as you hunker down for winter. Though if you run out of food, there's always roots and nuts to be dug up in the forest, or maybe even a bit of game if you can chance it.