Thursday, January 07, 2010

On This Day.....7th January, St. Distaff's Day

"Partly work and partly play,
Ye must on St. Distaff's day,
From your plough come free the team,
Then come home and fodder them.
If the maids a-spinning go,
Born the flax and free the tow,
Scorch their plackets, but beware,
That you burn no maiden hair.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give St. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow, every one,
to his own vocation."

- St. Distaff's Day, Or, The Morrow After 12th Day by Robert Herrick 1591-1674

Distaff isn't a real saint, but spinning was such an important craft for women that the name of the tool came to be given to this day on which people returned to work after the Christmas celebrations, it also became a legal term (the distaff side) to note the differences in inheritance between the female and male (the spear side) children in a family. This is also where the English term for an unmarried woman, spinster, comes from.

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