The Good Old Days
We seniors are always being accused of reminiscing about the good old days you know, when haircuts were a quarter, burgers were 5 cents and gasoline was 15 cents a gallon. But lets go back to the good old days, way back to 500 years ago. What was it like back then to live when many of todays customs and sayings had their origins? Read on gentle and distinguished readers as I try to educate and entertain you.
Life in the 1500s:
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isnt just how you like it, think about how things use to be so long ago. Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were still starting to smell a bit, 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 bathing first in nice clean water, then all the sons and men of the household would go next, finally the women, girls and babies would take their bath in the same tun with the same water.
By the time it came to the babies of the household the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Thus, the phrase dont throw the baby out with the bath water. Houses had thatched roofs; thick straw piled high with no wooden fame underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm in the wintertime so the cats and other small animals lived in the roof. Sometimes the roof would give way to the weight of the animals giving rise to the saying raining cats and dogs.
And, since there was nothing to stop things from falling through the straw roof into the house form time to time, bugs and other droppings would periodically fall into the home messing up nice clean sheets and freshly made beds. To prevent this people would tie bed sheets to the tops of the bedposts over the bed to catch the droppings leading to the invention of the canopy.
The floor was dirt in the 1500s. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt hence the saying dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when it got wet. Thresh (straw) was put on the floor to prevent slipping. As the winter wore on more and more thresh was added to the floor to soak up the condensation until a piece of wood had to be laid in the doorways to prevent the thresh from slipping outside, hence the word thresh hold. (Getting quite an education arent you?)
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that was 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 cooking over the next day when the pot was lit again. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there quite a long time. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold peas porridge in the pot nine days old.
Sometimes they couldnt obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up the bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could afford to bring home the bacon. When guests arrived they would cut off a little bacon and share it while they all sat around and wold chew the fat. Those who had money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leech into the food causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years 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 the guests got the top or the upper crust. Lead cups were used to drink tea or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out 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 eating and drinking and waiting to see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of the places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house to reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 were found to have scratch marks inside making them realize they had buried some people alive. So they would henceforth tie a string on the wrists of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up tot he surface where it was tied to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus someone could be saved by the bell or considered a dead ringer.
that the truth! Now, whoever said history was
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