in the 1500's
The actual origins of some traditions & axioms.
I think most of these are made up, but they sound good...
Most people got married
in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling
pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried
a bouquet of flowers to hide the b.o.
Baths were a big
tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the
first bath and clean water, then all the other menfolk, then the women,
and finally the children. Last of all were the babies. By then the water
was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying,
"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".
Houses had thatched
roofs. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood support underneath. It was
the only place for animals to be warm, so the pets... dogs, cats and other
small creatures lived IN the roof. When it rained the roof often would
become slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall from the
roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs,"
There was nothing
to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem
in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your
nice clean bed. So, they found if they made beds with big posts and hung
a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful
big 4 poster beds with canopies to catch the bugs and prevent them from
falling into bed with the occupant.
Floor were dirt.
Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, floors which would get
slippery when wet in the winter. So, they spread thresh (corn husks and
straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on
they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door the thresh
would start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry
way to prevent this, hence a "thresh hold".
They cooked in the
kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they
lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and
didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner leaving leftovers
in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes
the stew had food in it that had been in there for a month. Hence the
rhyme: "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in
the pot nine days old."
Sometimes they could
obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company
came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off.
It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really bring home the
bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would
all sit around and "chew the fat."
Those with money
had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of
the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often with tomatoes,
so they stopped eating tomatoes... for 400 years. Most people didn't have
pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped
out like a bowl. Trencher were never washed and a lot of times worms got
into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get "trench
Bread was divided
according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family
got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust".
Lead cups were used
to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out
for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for
dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table
for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink
and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a
England is old and
small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they
would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house and re-use
the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found
to have scratch marks on the inside, and they realized they had been burying
people while still alive. So they thought to tie a string on their wrist
of those buried, and lead the string through the coffin, up through the
ground, and tie it to a bell. Someone would sit in the graveyard all night
to listen for the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would
know that someone was either "saved by the bell," or was a "dead