Thursday, January 06, 2011

On This Day...

This is Epiphany and 12th night, the end of Christmas.  Why do we have 12 days (or nights) of Christmas ? Because in 567 AD the Roman Catholic Council of Tours decided that there should be 12 days of celebration for Christmas and that the whole period should be spent in thanks and celebration and nobody should be made to work.  Except those who had to organise and staff said celebrations I would assume.

The Council of Tours was also responsible for other decrees which were not so great, in 567 AD, it was decreed that "any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to the lay state; nor might monks sleep two to a bed." In 755 AD the Council decreed that the calendar year should begin at Easter, right lads, a calendar year that begins on the first day of a celebration that moves its position on the calendar from year to year, I think an excess of Communion wine might have been responsible for that one.

Cathars driven out from Carcassone
 From the odd and eccentric, the Council also passed decrees which were much less pleasant, The Council in 1163 AD ordered that the Cathars of Southern France should be deprived of their belongings, this in turn opened the way for the Cathar Crusades and the atrocities that followed.  At Beziers, the French crusaders burned the city to the crowd and slaughtered the entire population, in other attacks people were herded out of cities naked and without supplies, or they were impaled and burned alive. When the crusades ended, the Inquisition took over, just when the few remaining Cathars thought their lives couldn't possibly get worse.

For many of us, 12th Night is when our decorations come down, the cards go to the recycling bin, and everything goes back to winter dullness.  Soon, Ilkley's eclectic selection of Christmas illuminations will be turned off, no more flashing festive turkey, farewell and good riddance to the poorly decorated tree at the head of Brook Street, although the rest of the lights were fairly good, and at least they have resisted putting the electric Roman soldiers up.

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