middle ages christmas
Europe

Fasts, Feasts, Ale, and Meats: A Medieval Christmas

Just like now, drinking alcohol was a favorite pastime of many a medieval person, but especially so during the Christmas period. As a rule, the average citizen quaffed large quantities of weak ale instead of water. Despite this tolerance, people somehow still managed to get rowdy. So much so that it was commonplace for wealthy lords to employ watchmen to guard their estates against rioters. Outside of warmth and some bread, watchmen could expect to a reward of, you guessed it — a gallon of ale.

Green children
Europe

Up From Below: The Mysterious Green Children of Woolpit

In the early Middle Ages Woolpit was amid the most agriculturally and densely populated part of rural England. It wasn’t impossible that strangers might pass through, and in those days many villages were self-contained with their own customs, clothes, and dialects. You could enter a place a few miles away and have trouble understanding the locals.

The Beast of Gévaudan
Europe

The Beast of Gévaudan: A Monstrous Murder Mystery

Gévaudan was exactly the type of place where you’d expect the supernatural to occur. Nestled in the south of France, it had a reputation for being isolated and remote. It was a region where people mainly kept to themselves, shrouded in a self-contained bubble and surrounded by forests and hillsides that may still have been enchanted.

princess olga of kiev
Europe

Wrath, Revenge, and Religion: Olga of Kiev

This, one would think, would be enough revenge for one queen. But not Olga of Kiev. Now, with her position made clear, the real destruction could begin. A war between the two nations broke out, with Olga’s side too formidable to defeat in battle. After the initial conflict, her army drove the survivors back into their cities and marched on Iskorosten to lay siege to the city. After a year passed with no success, Olga hatched a plan that was as creative as it was devious.

Painted Piggy Bank
Origin Stories

Savings & Swine: A Brief History of the Piggy Bank

Pigs get a bad rap. Americans often equate them with being grubby, gluttonous, and greedy, despite their highly intelligent and social nature. Calling someone a pig is an insult, and people seem to be more fond of bacon than the creatures themselves. Of all the negative qualities we’ve given pigs, being thrifty is not one of them. So why do we teach children to save money by telling them to stash coins in a hollow receptacle called a piggy bank? To understand this seemingly odd connection, you have to take it back a few hundred years.

breakfast
Europe Origin Stories The Americas

Breakfast: A Brief History of the Most Controversial Meal of the Day

Pancakes stuck around, spreading through cultures across the world. People in the burgeoning United States ate thin, European-style pancakes at any time of day, but that changed around the 1780s. Cooks began to thicken them up with pearl ash, resulting in hearty rounds. Unlike bread, they were quick and easy to make first thing in the morning before a hard day of manual labor.