On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Four Calling Birds…
December 28th is here and so this is the “Fourth Day of Christmas.” This day adds a somber connection to the celebration of Christmas as it is the “Feast of the Holy Innocents“, also called the Massacre of the Innocents. The day reflects on the story in the Gospel of Matthew of the slaughter of the male infants by King Herod.
The somber tone of the day is captured in the traditional Christmastide hymn, the Coventry Carol and the words:
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
This year the emotion of the Coventry Carol, and the tragic focus of this day, is deepened by the horrible events this year in Pakistan of the Peshawar school massacre. There 132 children (and 9 teachers) were slaughtered as a political statement. In the midst of all the joy and festivities associated with Christmas time, it is easy to forget, or even avoid, the tragedy and sadness that is also in the world. Individuals will choose to commit terrible acts of madness that leave the rest of the world gasping in shock and horror. How on earth can anyone choose to cause such harm?
On the lighter side of this day – this is also a day to celebrate the joy of our children and the precious life of the future generations. A society, a culture, a civilization is nothing without its children. All the goodness and sanity and wonder of the world is useless unless there is someone to carry on that goodness into the future. We bequeath what we are and what we have learned to our children so they can make something even better.
Within that lighter side of the day some cultures use this day as an opportunity for role reversals. On this day the youngest member of the household rules the day. This may actually be another borrowed aspect of Saturnalia that can be found throughout the Christmas season – when slaves became “masters” for the day. In some countries part of the upside-down aspect of the day is celebrated with “practical jokes” similar to April Fool’s Day.
The traditional food of the day – since it is a day of infants – is anything a baby could eat. Most commonly some type of hot cooked cereal flavoured with sugar and cinnamon. After all the rich foods of the previous days of Christmas a simple bowl of oatmeal might be a welcome change! Add a nice mug of hot milk and one is all set for a nice quiet day of enjoying family.
Wishing you a Peaceful Fourth Day of Christmas!