Monday, January 9, 2017
Since this is the Monday after Epiphany (traditionally celebrated on January 6 but moved to a Sunday celebration here in the U.S.A. for most Catholic parishes and chapels), today is Plough Monday. The Twelve Days of Christmas are over, Twelfth Night has been celebrated, and things are getting back to normal, even though the Christmas/Epiphany season lasts until Candlemas, keeping the 40 days and 40 nights biblical tradition intact.
The Tudor Society blog describes the festivities of the day:
Plough Monday was the first Monday after 6th January and was the day on which things would return to normal after the Twelve Days of Christmas and people would return to work. It was also the first day of the new agricultural year and 16th century poet and farmer Thomas Tusser wrote:
Plough Monday, next after that Twelfth tide is past
Bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last.
Ronald Hutton, in his book Stations of the Sun [:A History of the Ritual Year in Britain], writes of how there are records from the 15th century of ploughs being dragged around the streets "while money was collected behind it for parish funds" and that this money might be spent on the “"pkeep" of plough lights, which were candles that were kept burning in church at this time to bring the Lord's blessing on those working in the fields. Steve Roud, in The English Year writes of how there was often a 'common' or 'town' plough that was loaned out to locals who could not afford to buy their own and that this would be kept at the parish church. Roud notes: "its presence presumably gave the opportunity for services based on blessing the plough and praying for success in the coming year".
The Reformation put an end to the practice of plough lights, because the lighting of these candles to bring a blessing was seen as superstitious, but the practice of processing around towns and villages with the plough continued.
More about Plough Monday here.