28 December 2010

28 December - Holy Innocents; 4th Day of Christmas

Weather: the weather today indicates the weather of April.
Bright, sunny, cold.

If it be lowering and wet on Childermas Day, there will be scarcity; while if the day be fair, it promises plenty.  Well, thank heavens for that.  The day be fair.  What plenty does it promise? ("Oh, I've got plenty of nothin', and nothin's plenty for me...")
Lully, Lullay, thou little child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lully, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

(There are more Carols and Poems for the Holy Innocents here, with three versions of the Coventry Carol.)

Today, in the midst of Christmas celebrations, we mourn the slaughter of the innocent baby boys of Bethlehem, as ordered by King Herod.

[After the kids have opened and played with every possible present in Christendom, and then suddenly announce that they're booooored, there's nothing to dooooooo - am I the only one who suggests that we play Bible stories - I'll be Herod and they can be the Holy Innocents?]

Traditionally, this is the unluckiest day in the calendar.  It is not a good day to start any new undertaking, like getting married, or getting a head start on your New Year's Resolutions, or trying a new recipe, or wearing new clothes.  To some, the actual weekday that it fell on was considered unlucky throughout the following year - to the extant that not only would they not start a journey, or any of the above activities, they would not even take a bath that day.

[Sounds like something our own Innocents would pull.  What next?  No doing chores or homework, going to school, getting out of bed on Tuesdays... because Holy Innocents fell on a Tuesday?  Hop right into that bathtub, youngster!]

Another tradition was to whip the children first thing in the morning as they lay in bed, to remind them of the grievousness of this day.  Of course, the remedy for that (and children are smart; they do think of remedies) is for the children to get out of bed first, before the parents are awake.  With time, the tradition changed to whipping the last person found lying in bed, which must have made for a pretty mad scramble in the morning.

For all its unluckiness, this was also a day of children, in which they pulled pranks on their parents and other adults in the house, like stealing the house-keys (in the days when rooms and closets had key locks) and locking a parent in a closet, until they received a promised forfeit of a cookie or a little money [yes, we call it extortion. Why do you ask?]

In honor of today, let the children choose the menu and the activities. [It's only one day.  You will survive.  And who knows?  You might even like tacos or peanut-butter-and-jelly three times a day, and endless viewings of 'The Fairies Rescue Christmas'.]

Of course, it might also make you think that Herod had the right idea.