Page 9, 4th January 1980

4th January 1980
Page 9
Page 9, 4th January 1980 — Monthly seasoning for a new decade

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Organisations: Roman senate, eta
Locations: London


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Monthly seasoning for a new decade


DEDICATED to the Roman god, Janus. He was the ancient deity who kept the gates of Heaven. hence its guardian of the entrance, and having two faces, could look hack to the year past, and forward to the oncoming year. Farm workers who had just held their Christmas revellings took part in ceremonies honouring the plough. On the first Monday after Epiphany, Plough Monday. a race began at sunrise among freemen who drew a plough through their village.

The dreary fortnight from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. or Twelfth Day (January 6). when the fields were drowned with rain or hound with frost, was transformed into the longest holiday of the year ---14 or 15 days.


THE month of purification among the ancient Romans (Latin, jihruo, I purify by sacrifice). February 2 was Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mury. It is said that if the weather is line and forsty at the close of January and the beginning of February, there is more winter ahead than behind.

In the early agricultural days in England little ploughing was done until Candlemas Day (which was a holiday), when a newly-married mother donned her wedding gown and entered the Church carrying a lighted candle, Candlemas Day was closely followed by Shrove Tuesday, a profane festival dedicated to games and sports with "Church Ales" provided for the occasion when the money went to church funds.


AFTER Mars the God of our. He was also the Roman patron or h usbandmen.

In the countryside throughout Lent, the sanctuaries in the castle and the parish Church were hung with veils, the Cross and images were shrouded.

On Palm Sunday the parishioners carried yew or willow twigs in procession, following the Host around the churchyard. On Good Friday the Cross was unveiled and set on the steps of the altar.

The priest and people came forward to kiss it, kneeling low the so-called "ereeping the Cross". Then the Cross and Host were buried in a special sepulchre in the wall of the Church or in a Chapel with candles. On Easter morning the sepulchre was opened and the Cross and Host were carried to the altar.


THF opening month (Latin, "aperire-, to open), when trees unfold and the womb or nature opens with young life, April I, "April Fool's Day," is observed for a variety of reasons, although for the main part an April foul is a person who has been befooled, called in Scotland a "gawk" (cuckoo).

One reason may be its association with the Roman festival of Cerealia held in honour of Ceres at the beginning of April.

The legend is that Proserpine was sporting in the Elysian meadows and had just tilled her lap with daffodils when Pluto came and carried her off to the lower world. Her mother, Ceres, heard the echo of a scream.

The Christian interpretation is that as March 26 used to he New Year's Day, April I was its octabe when its festival culminated and ended.

Easter, like Christmas, was a time for exchanging presents between lord and tenants, The tenants presented eggs, a token of new life adopted to symbolise the Resurrection.

There followed a holiday and another special brew culled "Easter Ale" ss as served for refreshment (the name Easter was adopted for the Laster Paschal festival from the Old English eastre a heathen festival held at the vernal equinox in honour of the Teutonic Goddess of dawn. called blare by Bede, which fell at the same time).

Easter ended with Hocktide, the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter, a two-duv festival which in some places involved a custom of wives whipping husbands un Monday and husbands whipping . wives on I ucsday.


FROM the Latin ntala, the month of May and possibly connected with maius, the goddess of growth and increase, The Saxons called this month thrimilre, because the cows had to be milked three times a day.

To the old country people the Summer really began with the May-day celebrations, a time for love-making, when moral taboos were relaxed, young people venturing into the woods before daybreak, sometimes being joined by others. including the clergy, and brought in the "bringings of May-, wildflowers, greenery and hawthorn boughs.

A young lord and lady of the May were appointed to preside over the dances and revels. The celebrations went on with games and sports.

On Ascension Day. following after Rogationtide, wells were "dressed" and various water-rites were performed; throwing pins and needles into the wells to determine the fates and omens,


OUR sixth month, was named by the Romans after Junius, a gens or clan name akin to neyenis. young.

Alternately, it may derive from Juno of Roman mythology. the "venerable ox-eyed wife" and sister of Jupiter, and queen of heaven, The Romans always acclaimed June a lucky month for all marriages. In the countryside June would see the work in full swing with the men (and women) tending the ripening crops and fruit. After sheep-shearing, the feast of the summer solstice ( Midsummer) was celebrated with the eve of St John the Baptist Day (June 24). A 13th century book of sermons observes St John's Eve, when boys collected bones and rubbish and burned them, and carried lighted brands about the fields to drive away dragons that were believed to he abroad poisoning the wells. A wheel might he set alight and rolled down the hills to signify that the Sun had reached its highest point and was turning back, St John's day was also the traditional day to begin the harvest provided the weather was dry.


THE seventh month in our calendar. named by Mark Anthony in honour or Julius Caesar. It etas formerly called Quintiles as it was the fifth month or the Roman year. The old Sawn name for it was maeddmonaih. because the cattle were turned into the meadows to feed, and also Lida atnevr, the second mild or genial month,

July originally contained 36 days under the Romans but were reduced first to 31, then to 3U, but it was restored by Julius Caesar.


FORMERLY called sextilis in the Roman calendar. the sixth month from March (when their own year began), It was changed to August in 8 BC. in honour of Emperor Augustus (63 BC 14:\I)), the first Roman emperor whose lucky month it was.

It was the month in which he begun his first consulship, celebrated three Triumphs, received the allegiance of the legions cm the Janiculum, reduced Egypt. and ended the civil war. St John's Day (June 24) saw the ripening harvest in the countryside and on La111111aS Day (August 1) (so called from the Old English, the loaf mass). was the day when bread specially baked from the newly reaped wheat was blessed in the church,


THE seventh month from March, where the old Roman year used to commence. The old Saxon word for it was gersi-numath, the barley month, Alter the introduction or Christianity into England it was changed to hak-monath, holy month, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary being on the eighth and St Michael's Day on the twenty ninth. In the countryside the workers toiled for the harvest boons, the so-called hi-reaps and on the last day of reaping, teams of workers raced each other to see which would finish a ridge.

Following the harvest there would he the usual time of relaxation when the last loud or corn would be brought in with the workmen singing the Harvest Home song, and then would follow the usual jollification provided by the lord of the nano'.


THE eighth month of the ancient Roman calendar (Latin, ()eta, eighth) the tenth month of our own calendar.

When the beginning of the year in the Roman calendar was changed to January I in 153 BC. it retained its original name in spite of attempts to change it made by the Roman senate and by the emperors, Commodus and Domitian.


FROM the Latin /won, nine, being the ninth month of the ancient Roman calendar, the eleventh in our own. The old Saxon name for it was windmonath, the time for fishermen to draw their boats ashore, and give over fishing till the next spring. It was also known as himmonath, for November was the slaughtering time, the "blood month-. Feedstuff's w ere too scarce to keep all the cattle so most had to he killed and the flesh smoked or salted for human survival during the coming winter.

The month really began with the ancient least of All Hallows, originally for the propitiation of evil spirits from the dead. November being the month of the dead, evil spirits, harmful ghosts and witches had to he scared away by ringing bells, fireworks and similar devices, while the departed were honoured with lamps and fires at their graves and soul-cakes were eaten, representing possibly a former feast of the dead.

The feast of All Hallows was later adapted hy the church us . Saints Day, followed by All Souls the next day. Maritinmas, or St Martin's Day (November 11 marked another Christianised holiday, the feast of the ploughman celebrated in later days with cakes and pasties and "frumenty". a pudding made of wheat boiled with milk, currants. raisins and spices.


IN Latin, the tenth month. as n would be when the year began in March with the vernal equinox, but since January and February have been inserted before it, the name is somchwat misplaced.

When in 153 BC', the beginning of the year in the Roman calendar was changed to January I, the Month retained its numerical name in spite of the many attempts to change it as we have already seen.

In the Julian calendar it contained 30 days but when Augustus added one day to August, the days of the following months were changed and December was given 31 days which it has since retained.

To the farm worker as well as to the rest of England, December became noted for its Christmas festivities and rejoicings, perhaps much inure to the countryman who once again, as at Easter, gave gifts to his employer, who gave in return a Christmas dinner.

Besides conviviality, Christmas for the worker, brought carol singing, and entertainment and at Christmas, work was suspended for twelve days and brought with it a suspension of everyday standards of' behaviour. On the eve of St Nicholas' Day (December 6) the cathedral chose a "boy bishop" who presided over services on the Feast of Holy Innocents' Day (December 28) assisted by schoolbooys and ehoirboys, On Christmas Eve the Yule lug was brought in a giant section

of a tree trunk which filled the hearth and was kept burning throughout the twelve nights.

In the twelve days celebration, a certain amount of drunkenness did occur and the lord often appointed a special force of watchmen for the twelve days and nights when drunken orgies might take place.

During the boisterous season we read that the tenants on a manor belonging to St Paul's Cathedral. London, were bound

to watch at the manor house from Christmas to Twelfth Day, their pay "a good lire in the hull. one white lour, one cooked dish and a gallon of ale per day.

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