Lord of Misrule

Trading Roles at Christmas


If you have ever watched a movie like Freaky Friday, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or Your Name, you are familiar with the idea of two people swapping bodies and living each other’s lives for a while. This gives you a bit of insight into part of the fun of the Tudor Lord of Misrule tradition.


This tradition originated from The Feast of Fools of the late Medieval and Early Tudor periods in England. A lucky person was chosen to manage Christmas festivities at court and in noble houses through the Christmas season. He was not someone of noble birth but an ordinary citizen or working class person. He was responsible for directing the Christmas entertainment including masques, processions, plays and feasts.


This Lord presided with a mock court and comic homage from revelers. The world was turned upside down for a time! Feasting and heavy revelry were practiced and people switched places with each other for a time. Servants might be waited on by their masters!


The church of England held a similar festival by appointing a boy bishop at Christmastime. The boy bishop was chosen from the choir boys or from the school attached to the cathedral or monastery. The boy bishop reigned from December 6, St. Nicholas Day (the patron saint of children) until the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28th. The boy and his colleagues performed all of the liturgical ceremonies except mass during his reign. Though revived during the reign of Edward the VI, this church practice was abolished by Elizabeth I.


Think about someone whom you might like to trade places with for a day. If this is someone outside of your home, pretend to be that person. If you choose a friend or family member, talk with each other first about what your day will be like and both try to follow that as closely as possible. You might even agree to exchange clothes and chores!

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