Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Cattern's Day

A snippet I discovered at the museum yesterday, where there is a section on the history of Buckinghamshire lace ...

Saint Catherine is the patron saint of spinners and lacemakers. Her feast of November 25th was known as Cattern's Day, and marked the point of the year at which lacemakers in Buckinghamshire began to work by candlelight. The day was celebrated with "Cattern cakes" and the custom of jumping over a lighted candlestick. This was the origin of the rhyme:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack jump over the candlestick
The candlestick on display in the museum was considerably higher than I would want to jump over, particularly wearing long skirts!

I love the way saints' days continued to influence the calendar of ordinary people in England long, long after the Reformation. There is lots more about the lacemaker's year here.

It seems to me that St. Catherine would also make a good patron saint for knitters, who are pretty close on the spectrum to spinners and lacemakers. I can't find anything definitive about a knitting patron - a quick Google suggested St. Clare (patron of embroiderers), St. Fiacre (patron of cap makers and associated with a knitting guild in sixteenth century Paris), St. Dymphna (why??) and an unofficial patron, St. Rafqa of Lebanon. I'm rather fond of St. Rafqa, so I'm happy with this choice, but as St. Catherine is my name saint I have a definite bias towards adding her.


Alice Gunther said...

Fascinating to know the origin of that nursery rhyme.

Tina said...

I have just awarded you an excellence award. Details at my blog, Mary's Muse. At least you know you’re appreciated. ;o)

Lauri Bolland said...

Hello Kathryn! I stumbled upon your website whilst planning for next year. What a beautiful blog and your girls are SO big! If you have a chance to email me I'm at lamibo at comcast dot net
Love & Hugs - Lauri Bolland

Jenn Miller said...

So interesting! I just live for these connections!