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Feast of the Ass Options
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022 12:00:00 AM
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Feast of the Ass

This festival recalling the flight of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) into Egypt to escape King Herod reached its peak during the Middle Ages in France. It was customary to have a girl carrying a baby and riding an elaborately decorated ass led through the streets to the church. But the celebration gradually took on comic overtones, with the priest and congregation imitating the braying of an ass during the service and the ass itself being led into the church. By the 15th century the feast was nothing more than an occasion for laughter and was suppressed by the Church. More...
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022 11:33:21 AM

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Seriously? Oh my assPray
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022 6:08:47 PM

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Feast of the Ass

In the days before the average churchgoer could read, medieval churches held theatrical spectacles based on scriptural history to impress religious truths upon their congregations. One of these pageants, originally known as the Festum Asinorum (Latin) or Fête de l’âne (French) and now as the Feast of the Ass, commemorates the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. It was (and is occasionally even now) celebrated on January 14.

Charles du Fresne, sieur Du Cange (1610 – 1688), French philologist and historian, describes the French Medieval Feast of the Ass in his Glossary of Medieval and Late Latin (Paris, 1678). The pageant begins, Du Cange tells us, with a solemn procession through the streets of the city. The principal players are a beautiful girl cradling an infant in her arms and the splendidly decorated donkey on which she rides. The donkey and his burden are escorted to the city’s principal church and placed near the high altar. Then follows a special mass in which, in place of the usual responses (“amen”), the congregation brays like an ass.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the officiating priest brays three times instead of reciting the usual “Ite, Missa est”; in turn, instead of replying “Deo Gratias,” the congregation cries, “Hinham, hinham, hinham” (hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw).

Excerpted from Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion (Storey Publishing, 2008).
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