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Handfasting Festival at Mary Arden’s Farm

On Monday 7 May romance will be in the air at Mary Arden’s Farm at our Tudor Handfasting Festival.

Our resident Tudors will be acting out this beautiful traditional ceremony, celebrating the love between a committed couple. At 2.30pm there will be a mass public handfasting, which will be open for anyone to join in. So why not take the opportunity to express your feelings for that special someone?

Little ones will be entertained by face painting, music workshops, hands-on wool crafts, and ‘make a flower crown or green man mask’ activity.  A lovely way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday!

But what is a handfasting? Mistress Agnes, one of the Tudors at Mary Arden’s Farm, explains more about this traditional ceremony:

A handfasting is an old Pagan custom dating back to the time of the ancient Celts, which was still popular in rural areas in the Tudor period. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. It acted like a trial marriage, allowing the couple to live together and see if they could survive marriage to each other! After a year and a day the couple could either split, as if they had never been married, or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.

An upstanding member of the community presided over the handfasting. This could be the wealthiest landowner in the area, the local constable, even the local vicar. There were many different variations to the ceremony but the central feature was always the binding together of the couple’s hands with a cord or ribbon, which is where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from.

'Tying the knot'

At Mary Arden’s Farm, the couple also each have a supporter who vouches for their good character and acts as witness. They share a loving cup of posset (a hot drink made from alcohol and sweetened milk) and their heads are sprinkled with crumbs of seeded bread to bring fertility. After the ceremony there is dancing and feasting as both family and friends celebrate the happy occasion.

Join us on 7 May to experience this beautiful tradition for yourselves!