Thursday 14 January 2021

festum asinorum

On this day, medieval Christendom—though most popular in France—commemorated the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt to with a celebration to honour all beasts-of-burden and donkey-related stories in the Bible, possibly as an extension of a Roman holiday called Cervula which had similar themes of inversion.

There were processions and plays including portrayals of Balaam and his Ass and associated prophesies, as well as general praise and reward for our asses—our friends’ obscure etymology in donkey and jenny likely an American aversion from the nineteenth century to say anything untoward and made up substitutions, see also. The day’s mass was concluded with the priest declaring instead of the customary Ite, misse est—it is done, you are dismissed to which the congregation replied Deo Gratias, from the pulpit the priest would bray, hinhannabit, three times with the response “Hinham, hinham, hinham.”