The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

January 7 – St. Distaff's Day

William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827.

Volume 1


The day after Twelfth-day was so called because it was celebrated in honour of the rock, which is a distaff held in the hand, from whence wool is spun by twirling a ball below. It seems that the burning of the flax and tow belonging to the woman, was the men's diversion in the evening of the first day of labour after the twelve days of Christmas, and that the women repaid the interruption to their industry by sluicing the mischief-makers. Herrick tells us of the custom in his Hesperides: —

St. Distaff's day, or the morrow after Twelfth-day.

Partly work, and partly play,
Ye must on S. Distaff's day:
From the plough soone free your teame,
Then come home and fother them.
If the maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow;

            *             *             *

Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the maides bewash the men
Give S. Distaffe all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night.
And next morrow, every one
To his owne vocation.

In elder times, when boisterous diversions were better suited to the simplicity of rustic life than to the comparative refinement of our own, this contest between the fire and water must have afforded great amusement.


William Hone, The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information. London: Thomas Tegg, 1832. January 7. St. Distaff's Day.

The day after Epiphany or Twelfth day was called St. Distaff’s day by country people, because, the Christmas holidays have ended, good housewives resumed the distaff and their other industrious employments.

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