Source: Wikipedia, via Deacon's Bench.
The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l’âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on January 14, celebrating the Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus‘s birth.
A girl with child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would “hee-haw” their responses to the priest.
But wait. There’s more. Wikipedia adds:
Mass was continued, and at its end, apparently without awakening the least consciousness of its impropriety, the following direction (in Latin) was observed:
In fine Missae sacerdos, versus ad populum, vice ‘Ite, Missa est’, ter hinhannabit: populus vero, vice ‘Deo Gratias’, ter respondebit, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’
(At the end of Mass, the priest, having turned to the people, in lieu of saying the ‘Ite missa est‘, will bray thrice; the people instead of replying ‘Deo Gratias’ say, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’)
Can’t imagine why we don’t do this anymore. (I’m sure a few readers will insist that, in places, they still do…)
Remember to extend warmest greetings on this feast to those you love.
And be sure to hit the stores on Tuesday, to take advantage of the after-holiday sales!