Calendar for January 7th, 2014

Distaff Day

The day after Epiphany (January 6) was traditionally the one on which women went back to work after the 12-day Christmas celebration. A distaff is the wooden rod (staff) that holds the flax or wool on a spinning wheel. The term distaff came to refer to both women's work and the female branch (distaff side) of the family. The women's husbands did not go back to work until the following Monday (see below), so they would mischievously try to set fire to the flax on their wives' distaffs, while the women, lying in wait, would douse them with buckets of water. The English poet Robert Herrick wrote: If the maids a-spinning goe Burn their flax and fire their tow. Bring the pails of water then Let the maids bewash the men.