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Feast of Fools

popular festival during the Middle Ages, held on or about January 1, particularly in France, in which a mock bishop or pope was elected, ecclesiastical ritual was parodied, and low and high officials changed places. Such festivals were probably a Christian adaptation of the pagan festivities of the Saturnalia. By the 13th century these feasts had become a burlesque of Christian morality and worship. In spite of repeated prohibitions and penalties imposed by the Council of Basel in 1431, the feasts did not die out entirely until the 16th century.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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