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  • Apple Bobbing on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#1) Apple Bobbing

    • Musical Album

    Sure, you could just eat an apple by shaking or climbing a tree and taking your pick, but where is the challenge in that? Medieval British peasants decided to make a fun game out of it, and mix in a bit of romance as well.

    Bobbing for apples was originally created as a courting ritual. Each apple was assigned the name of one of the cute village studs. Then a girl would risk drowning herself in a bucket to get the one of the guy she liked. If she got it on the first try, awesome, they were destined to be together. Two bites and they would date but it wouldn’t work out. Three bites and it was never going to happen.

    Once you got an apple you didn’t just eat it; that would be too logical. No, you took it home and put it under your pillow so you would dream of the guy you fancied. How long you kept it there is up for debate.

  • Early Forms Of Soccer Were A Riot on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#2) Early Forms Of Soccer Were A Riot

    These days soccer (or football) is often plagued by ridiculous stories of the hooligan fans who follow it with a animalistic passion, but back in the day it was the antics of the players that were scary.

    Folk football was an absolute riot. There was no field, and the number of players was basically whoever showed up, which could mean hundreds of people. Whole towns would take part. The goal was to kick the “ball” (really a blown-up pig’s bladder) to the other village’s church before they could get it to yours. That meant the “goals” might be miles apart. There weren’t any other rules and violence was absolutely part and parcel to the game. Injuries and even deaths were expected.

    It might sound terrifying, but folk football was so popular that numerous kings in both France and England tried to ban it. They thought it took up too much time from important things people could be doing, like practicing archery, and they didn’t want to lose good fighting men to such a deadly game.

  • Operation Archery on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#3) Operation Archery

    • Military Conflict

    Unlike knights, who needed to be able to house and feed horses, medieval archers just needed access to a bow and some arrows. However, knowing how to be good with them took some work, so in the Middle Ages there was actually a law passed that all men between the ages of 15 and 60 had to practice every week. This was especially important during the 100 Years War when peasants were called up to fight. Some of them even used crossbows.

    Archery was so important that kings tried to ban other things that they thought took up too much of their potential war force’s time - included high on the list was the rough and tumble old-time soccer

  • The Surge: A Military History on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#4) The Surge: A Military History

    • Non-fiction

    Gambling is right up there with prostitution when it comes to “stuff people have always done.” Lotteries are so old the Romans liked to get in on them and they are even mentioned in the Old Testament. But during the Middle Ages they took on a whole new meaning.

    Sometimes lotteries were used for smaller things, like when people in 13th century Flanders used one to determine who got the sweetest spots in the market. Sometimes public officials were even picked using a lottery system. But lotteries as we know them, where people win stuff, started in Utrecht and Ghent in the 1440s to raise money to make better fortifications. The connection between the lottery and the military was born. When Milan went to war against Venice, they used a lottery to help raise the cash to pay for it. Later lotteries would be used to strengthen England’s royal navy.

    Usually the lottery was used in place of a tax. And we all hate paying taxes, but wasting money on the lottery is a lot more fun! Maybe they should consider bringing this system back. 

  • Dice on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#5) Dice

    Dice in the Middle Ages were usually made out of carved bone, most often the knuckle bone. One of the most popular dice games to play was Hazzard. It may have been brought back from the Middle East by crusaders who played it during their down-time... you know, when they weren't killing people. The official rules were even codified by King Alfonso X of Spain in 1283.

    The game was played with three dice and the goal was to roll them and get between 15 and 18 points or three and six points. All other ranges are losers. Of course, statistically, hitting these scores was harder than any others. Two players, or two sides, played against each other.

    But just like today, the odds were stacked against the house. Some knuckle bone dice have been x-rayed and found that they were weighted with small mercury weights. These would be used in places like inns where the weighted dice would be used to trick travelers into losing their money.

  • Skittles Was A Creative Form Of Bowling on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#6) Skittles Was A Creative Form Of Bowling

    Skittles is the generic word for a couple different types of games. The first started with monks in Germany as early as the 3rd century. They used to carry around large clubs for self-defense, assumedly because some jerks liked beating up poor innocent men of God. They played a game where the club was used like a bowling pin, and they threw stones at it until it fell over. Sounds like a bit too much fun for monks, but they kept it religious by saying the club represented sin and they were destroying it.

    A later version of skittles used lots of small pins surrounding a larger pin. The idea was to throw a long club at it underarm and knock over the protected big pin. But one of the most popular games in the Middle Ages was the version closest to today's bowling. It shows up in lots of books of the time. The main difference was that there were nine pins instead of ten, but you still used a ball and tried to knock them all over.

  • Colf Was Too Dangerous To Play In Town on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#7) Colf Was Too Dangerous To Play In Town

    A version of today’s golf, colf was played mainly in the Netherlands during the Middle Ages. And if you think golf is boring then colf might be the game for you. It took a relaxing game and turned it all the way up to 11.

    So popular that it inspired a poet to write about it in 1261, colf was originally played right in the middle of towns. You used a curved wooden club to hit a small ball and reach whatever agreed upon distant target you were aiming for. But just like with baseball today, errant balls hit innocent people, broke windows, and in general caused so much destruction that players eventually moved to empty fields.

    Then in the 1500s came something called the Little Ice Age. Lakes and rivers were suddenly frozen where they hadn’t been before, and people decided colf would be even more fun played on skates. But everyone was trying to have fun on the frozen water so in order to avoid injuries the goal of the game became more about precision rather than distance.

  • Bear-Baiting Was A Popular Blood Sport on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#8) Bear-Baiting Was A Popular Blood Sport

    Despite some of the other wholesome games on this list, medieval people enjoyed some seriously sick blood sport. Bear-baiting, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, if something was going to die, they were all for it.

    There were dedicated bear-baiting rings, just like you would find a theater dedicated to showing plays. And while normal people would gather to watch these “games” often, everyone all the way up the social ladder to even royalty enjoyed them. The bears were treated like Roman gladiators; they were expensive to feed and train and some became celebrities in their own rights.

    The idea for bear-baiting was simple. You put a poor innocent bear in a ring and attached it to a stake in the ground by a chain so that it couldn’t escape and hurt the spectators. Then you set dogs on it, who were trained to kill. Sometimes the bear won and you ended up with a lot of dead dogs, sometimes the dogs won and you had one very dead bear. Whatever the outcome, it was pretty sick.

  • Jousting With the Intent of Hurting People on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#9) Jousting With the Intent of Hurting People

    • Musical Album

    Peasants weren’t allowed to participate in actual jousts, but they thumbed their noses at the aristocracy and made up their own version. Forget horses - that was too easy - this jousting was done on boats.

    Water jousting was huge in the Middle Ages, with people all over Europe playing it. You and your mates would meet up at the river, often as part of a festival, and get in two long, thin rowboats. Most of them manned the oars, while the jouster stood up at the front of the boat holding a pole. The boats would come at each other and the goal was to knock down the other jouster.

    Sometimes people would practice jousting against a dummy, just like real knights. The dummy would swing around if you hit it and usually knock you into the water unless you were fast enough. While actual jousting often ended in broken bones and even death, water jousting just got its participants soaking wet. 

  • Ice-Skating Was Dangerous Fun on Random Medieval Peasants Actually Had A Lot Of Free Time

    (#10) Ice-Skating Was Dangerous Fun

    Back in the day, ice-skating was hardcore. It didn’t start out as something people did for fun. In places like Finland where it was snowy and icy for a lot of the year, people needed a way to get around and do important things like hunting, so learning to ice-skate was necessary for survival. Even once it reached places like England and people started ice-skating for pleasure, it wasn’t all fun and games.

    One chronicler wrote that skaters often crashed into each other, and if you fell head first on the ice you would most likely lose some skin. But it got worse: it was all too common for people to wind up with broken limbs when they came crashing down.

    Obviously they weren’t using nice metal skates like we have today, but instead they attached carved bones to shoes with leather cords which worked almost as well, strangely enough. That’s because animal bones have their own natural wax and an oily external surface that allows for surprisingly good skating.

    People would use poles to push themselves around on their skates, and sometimes those poles would become ice-jousting equipment. Anything to make a fellow skater fall on their face.

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About This Tool

The young and middle-aged in the peasant family are most likely to work rather than go to school, and the young labor force becomes an indispensable part of the peasant family. Apart from work, how did medieval farmers spend their free time? Sex was always popular, and it can also provide labor for family production. Drinking and listening to folks were also favorite pastimes of Medieval peasants.

Life in the Middle Ages is always considered boring, but not everything is dark and tedious. From peasants to gentlemen, people in the Middle Ages knew how to have fun. The random tool lists 10 popular activities that Medieval peasants would have at free time.

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