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. Here are some facts about the 1500's:
Most people got married in June, because they took
their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.
However, they were starting to smell, 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 h ad the privilege of the nice clean water, then
all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children!
Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could
actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby
out with the bath water."
Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high,
with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm,
so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.
When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip
and off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs.
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This
posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings
could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, 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 something other
th an 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.
Hence the saying a "thresh hold."
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. Hence the
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 and "chew the fat."
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food
with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food,
causing lead poisoning 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 guests got
the top, or "upper crust."
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. 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 and eat and drink and
wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a
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, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch
marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people
alive. So they would 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; thus, someone could be
"saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."