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Feast of Fools

  • By: Max Harris
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The Feast of Fools developed in the late 12th and early 13th centuries as an elaborate and orderly liturgy for the day of the Circumcision of Christ (January 1). Celebrating the biblical principle that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27), the feast allowed lower members of the clergy, particularly the subdeacons, to assume leadership roles in worship usually reserved for the cantor or the bishop. Largely confined to cathedrals and collegiate churches in northern France, the Feast of Fools flourished in some cities for more than three centuries before gradually succumbing to pressures of reform. Although it was not the disorderly clerical revel that scholars have often imagined, the feast was certainly open to moments of ...

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