What Did Peasants Do for Fun in the Middle Ages?

For fun during the Middle Ages, peasants danced, wrestled, bet on cockfighting and bear baiting, and played an early version of football. On Sundays, peasants were allowed to rest and go to church. Some pious peasants undertook pilgrimages to gain God’s favor.

Given their work schedules, everyday life was seldom pleasant for peasants during the Middle Ages, but they had fun when they could. Some sang or played instruments, while others amused themselves with outdoor sports such as hockey, stickball and soccer. An early version of football pitted groups of men against one another with a crude ball and even cruder rules. Some peasants also told stories for fun.

The church played as large a role in a peasant’s life, as did his employer. At church, there was community and a chance to make music. Some churches helped parishioners and their children learn how to read. At festivals, peasants played games of chance. They enjoyed traveling musicians or caravans of actors, attended festivals, delighted in watching jesters and attended sporting events such as jousts and fights. Some performing groups recruited peasants from the audience to star in their mystery or miracle plays.

Though forced to work as soon as they were able, some children had fun jobs, such as chasing birds away from crops or weaving wool. Younger children played with dolls, and older children played early versions of checkers, draughts or backgammon.