07 January 2013

7 January - St. Distaff's Day; Plough Monday

Weather:  the weather today indicates the weather in July.


“Plough-Monday, next after that Twelfth-tide is past,
Bids out with the plough – the worst husband is last;
If ploughman get hatchet, or whip to the screen,
Maids loseth their cock, if no water be seen.”
                                                   Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry

This being the first working day after Epiphany, today is St. Distaff’s Day, when the women return to work after the Christmas holidays.

This being also the first Monday after Epiphany, today is Plough Monday as well, when the men return to work after the Christmas holidays.

In keeping with the spirit of the last twelve days, today is a mixture of work and frolic – of tricks being played on each other, of races to be first to finish their chores, with forfeits claimed from the losers.  In Thomas Tusser’s bit of doggerel above, if the ploughman can get his one of his field implements to the kitchen fire (the fireplace ‘screen’) before the maid gets a kettle of water on the fire, she forfeits to him the cockerel with which she would have celebrated Shrove Tuesday.  And Robert Herrick describes how the men would try to singe the spinning materials, while the maids would keep buckets of water with which to douse the men.

Have a bit of fun today, when you go back to work.

“Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaff's Day.”
                                            Robert Herrick

“Spinning with the Distaff”, found in Robert Chambers, The Book of Days (1863), p. 69