Plough Monday January 8th

Medieval scene showing a man plouging with the plough pulled by a bullock from Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry
Detail from LesTrès Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Bob Cratchet is back to work by Boxing Day, some of us are back to work on 27th or 28th but increasing numbers holiday until January 2nd. But medieval society had even longer off. Distaff Sunday (yesterday) was the day that women traditionally went back to work and Plough Monday was the men’s turn. Plough Monday was not just a normal day of work though. Particularly in the North, it was celebrated with a procession of ‘plough boys’, with a decorated plough and team and known as ‘Fool Plough’. Mumming, sword dancing and foolery propelled people back to work.

Here is a lovely recipe for a ‘Norfolk Plough Pudding‘ brought to my attention by Sue Walker. The author is Karen Burn Jones who talks about her Grandmother’s plough pudding recipe, which is a great winter warmer being made of sausage meat and bacon. Norfolk also had traditions for Plough Monday, when the plough was blessed and the plough boys (Plough Jacks, Plough Bullocks or Plough Stots) performed “Molly Dances” partly to make up their income they had lost when the ground was too icy to plough.

The Christmas/Mid Winter break went on for some until Candlemas in early February, and in Jane Austen’s day the school boys had a 6 week holiday at Christmas much to the distress of Mary Musgrove in ‘Persuasion’, Chapter 18. She complains bitterly of children being left with her during the long winter holiday. But as it was written on 1st February I will leave the joy of that great FOMO letter till then.

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