Carols, mulled wine, a Christmas feast, and piles of gifts … no, it’s not a scene from your favourite festive movie, but from the court of Henry VIII.
If you’ve ever wondered how the Tudors celebrated Christmas, join royal historian Lucy Worsley as she hosts A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley airing on BBC Two at 9 p.m. tonight and premiering Christmas Day on PBS in the United States with the title Lucy Worsley’s 12 Days of Tudor Christmas.
In the programme, Worsley “brings to life a magnificent Tudor Christmas, exploring the rituals and riches of the 12-day holiday as it was celebrated during the reign of King Henry VIII.”
Dressed in lavish period costume, Worsley serves as a guide through the rituals and traditions that happen on each day of the Tudor Christmas period, along with explaining how many of our current traditions, from carols to Christmas cake, have surprising Tudor origins.
But whilst some of the traditions carry on today, others have disappeared. Worsley introduces viewers to the Lord of Misrule, the person appointed as the official ringleader of Christmas revelries or “court-ordered chaos,” as they say in the special. Unlike a fool, the Lord of Misrule was a person of high status, and one of the king’s courtiers was appointed to be in charge of the wild partying and games throughout the 12 days of Christmas.
No expense was spared for the 12 days of feasting and celebrating, and in fact, Henry VIII would spend more than half the yearly budget for his household on the annual Christmas festivities.
Described as “a fun-filled and revelatory extravaganza” the Christmas special “combines the sacred and the secular into an unforgettable time filled with entertainment, feasting, drinking, and traditions both strange and familiar.”
Find Lucy Worsley’s 12 Days of Tudor Christmas on BBC Two or U.S. viewers can watch Wednesday, December 25 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, pbs.org and the PBS App.