Christmas revelries at Westminster were lavish that year–deliberately so, as if rich fare and dramatic spectacle could somehow validate Stephen’s contested kingship, as if roast goose and spiced red wine and baker’s dozen of minstrels could make people forget the burning of Worcester, the sacking of Nottingham, the newly dug graves, and the uncertain tomorrows that lay ahead. The great hall of William Rufus had been adorned with so much greenery that it resembled the forest in which Rufus had met his death, decorated with evergreen boughs and holly and beribboned sprigs of mistletoe. The meal had been so bountiful that the leftover goose and venison and bread and eel scraped from the trenchers would feed Christ’s poor for days to come. The entertainment was equally extravagant: a woman rope dancer, a daredevil who juggled daggers, a Nativity play that offered not only the requisite shepherds and Magi but even a few sheep as props. Then the last of the trestle tables were cleared away and the dancing began, the irresistible, exuberant music of everyone’s favorite, the carol.
~From When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman. Semicolon review here.