There aren’t many reasons to envy the life of a medieval peasant. Their lives were short, their diet and personal hygiene were appalling by modern standards, and they were subject to being wiped out by frequent wars and disease outbreaks. But 14th-century workers had one advantage over today’s peons – they got much more vacation.
“The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays,” the New York Post reports in a new article. “Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too.”
All told, peasants might get 200 days – or more – off each year, economist Juliet Shor told the paper. Lucky workers today get perhaps 120, assuming they take full weekends, full holidays and two weeks of vacation.
“The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed,” she said. “Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.”