Feast of the Ass is a medieval, Christian holiday celebrated on January 14, commemorating the Flight to Egypt. It is celebrated mainly in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating biblical stories of donkeys, especially the donkey that brought the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus was born.
History of Feast of the Ass
Ass was a Christian holiday in the Middle Ages, mainly celebrated in France. It honors all the donkeys in the Bible, especially the donkey that is said to have brought Jesus and his family to Egypt after Jesus was born, during what is known as Flight into Egypt. At the time, the family was on the run from Herod the Great's murder of the boys. Another biblical example of a donkey is the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It is also believed that a donkey was in the stable where Jesus was born. First celebrated in the eleventh century, the holiday is connected with the Feast of Fools, and was inspired by the pagan Roman festival of Cervulus.
One day, a girl would ride a donkey through a town to get to church. She would hold a baby, or herself pregnant, and a song would be sung by people on the street as she rode her bike. The lyrics can be translated as, "From the land of the Orient, a lord of the highest honor, so beautiful, so strong and neat, that no burden is too great for him. Hail, Sir. Donkey, hail." When the donkey arrives at the church, it stands by the altar for the duration of the service, and is sometimes given food and water. The church will brag or "hee-haw" its response to the priest, and sometimes the priest will brag too. Beauvais, a city in the North of France, has had particularly lively Ass celebrations.
The holiday began to be celebrated less and less throughout the second half of the fifteenth century after the Catholic Church officially voiced its objection. Feast of Fools is also out of favor at this point. Both celebrations are considered impropriety, though, this occurs with the Feast of Fools rather than with the Feast of Ass.
How to Observe Feast of the Ass
There are some interesting ways to celebrate this day:
- Read the Bible on Flight to Egypt or Palm Sunday.
- Look for other instances in the Bible where donkeys are mentioned.
- Try saying "hee-haw" or bray like a donkey.
- Ride your donkey if you have one.
- Reread the verse that has been sung on this day since medieval times: "From the land of the Orient, a lord of the highest fame, very beautiful, very strong and neat……"
- Play donkey tail pins.
ObservedFeast of the Ass has been observed annually on January 14th.
Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
Thursday, January 14th, 2021
Friday, January 14th, 2022
Saturday, January 14th, 2023
Sunday, January 14th, 2024