14 January “The Feast of the Ass”



On January 14, medieval Christians celebrated the  Feast of the Ass  (Latin: Festum Asinorum or Asinaria Festa ) commemorating   the various accounts in the Bible where a donkey (or ass) is mentioned, in particular the donkey that carried Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt.

This feast may represent a Christian adaptation of a pagan celebration, called Cervulus, integrated with the donkey from the nativity story

During this holy day, a ceremony often took place in which a girl with a baby in her arms was placed on a richly draped ass, and led with religious gravity to Church,  followed by churchgoers answering the priest with “hee-haws”. The Ass (possibly a wooden figure) was stationed beside the altar and the Mass was begun.

The Festum Asinorum gradually lost its identity, and became incorporated in other ceremonies, then, in the second half of the 15th century, it disappeared gradually, along with another celebration, the Feast of Fools.



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