The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be just a few hundred years ago! Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.However, with the coming of summer, they were already starting to sweat, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. (Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.)
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other men and sons took their turns bathing in the same bathwater.After the men were finished, the women bathed next and finally the children.The babies were the last in the house to be bathed in the same tub of bath water!By then, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.That is how the phrase “Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water” was coined.
Houses had thatched roofs (thick straw, that was piled high) with no wood underneath.It was the only place for smaller animals to warm up in winter, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice and bugs) lived inside of the thick thatched roof.When it rained, the thatch became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall through the roof.(“It's raining cats and dogs.”)
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house through the thatch. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Therefore, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had flooring other than dirt. (Hence the saying, “Dirt Poor”.) The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway, which became known as a “thresh hold”.
(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with 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 did not 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 stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.Remember the nursery school rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old”?
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon”. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around the fire and “chew the fat”.
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next few decades or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
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 of lead and alcohol would sometimes knock the imbibers unconscious 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 the ‘dead’ would wake up. This evolved into our custom of holding a “wake”.
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, many of them were found to have scratch marks on the inside lids, and they realized they had been burying people alive.So they would then tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell to ring; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer”.
And that's your History Lesson for today, Boys and Girls!Class is Dismissed!
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