Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Tradition and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
The king spent that Christmas at Camelot
With many gracious lords, men of great worth,
Noble brothers-in-arms, worthy of the Round Table,
With rich revelry and carefree amusement, as was right.
(36 - 39)
Holiday celebrations are a time for the king to bring all his vassals together under one roof. The point of the gathering wasn’t all fun and games: it was an opportunity for the king to solidify the feudal bonds to his vassals, affirming their continued loyalty.
Loud cries were uttered by the clergy and others,
"Nowel" repeated again, constantly spoken;
And then the nobles hurried to hand out New Year’s gifts,
Cried their wares noisily, gave them by hand.
(65 - 68)
This passage demonstrates some of the holiday traditions enjoyed by fifteenth century revelers: the word "Noel" and the gift-giving are familiar to us. What we might not recognize is the exchange of New Year’s gifts, but at that time it was traditional for people to exchange gifts from the 25th of December until the 6th of January, during the twelve days of Christmas. Christmas was actually a time period in the church year that lasted for two weeks.
All this merry-making went on until feasting time.
When they had washed as was fir they took their places,
The noblest knight in a higher seat, as seemed proper.
(71 - 73)
We’re not very far into the poem and this is the second time the narrator has referred to people doing things "as seem[s] proper." This repetition betrays his concern with traditions and customs, and here, the proper hierarchy of people.