James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 7

St. Distaff’s Day

By Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

  • Called St. Distaff’s Day because after the Christmas holidays ending on Twelfth Night the women proposed to resume their distaffs. The ploughmen would make it their sport to set fire to the flax in requital for which prank the maids would souse the men from the water pails.

  • PARTLY work and partly play

    You must on St. Distaff’s Day:

    From the plough soon free your team;

    Then come home and fother them;

    If the maids a-spinning go,

    Burn the flax and fire the tow.

    Bring in pails of water then,

    Let the maids bewash the men.

    Give St. Distaff all the right;

    Then bid Christmas sport good night,

    And next morrow every one

    To his own vocation.