Happy Childermas!

For those who like to tell their kids how much easier they have it now -

Childermas was celebrated (for lack of a better word) in medieval England to commemorate the biblical story of King Herod's "Massacre of the Innocents," in which the ruler attempted to kill the infant Jesus by killing every other kid he could lay his hands on.

(from my beloved Rip-A-Day Forgotten English calendar (Jeffrey Kacirk, Pomegranates):

"In medieval England the juvenile members of the family used to be reminded of the dismal character of the day by a sound [morning] whipping administered in bed...So far as the whipping was concerned, it might be avoided by the children taking care to rise betimes before their elders, and in fact the whole affair eventually resolved itself into a frolic in which the lively and active, who managed to be first astir, amused themselves at the expense of the sluggards by awakening them with a sound drubbing. It is noteworthy that in Wales on St. Stephen's Day (December 26) everybody has long been privileged to whip another person's legs with holly."
- Curiosities of Popular Customs, William Walsh, 1897


What made me laugh out loud was the fact I just immediately assumed this was a German or Austrian custom. Like, just when you thought you were safe from Krampus and your legs had healed from the whippings of December 5....WHACK!!!! And not even a bell to warn you!

The Desmond Tutu Center for Leadership (C4L) asks that we reinstate the observation of Childermas, but without the morning whippings and a more modern focus:

"Just out of solidarity, then, couldn't we set aside Thursdays in some special way, between now and December 28th? Not just to remember the dozens who were slain in Bethlehem by a despot, but to remember millions who are dying in our time because of various factors - including state indifference and recalcitrant leaders who do not role-model what it takes to stop the spread of HIV infection and thus of the AIDS pandemic.

"Here are some ways to do this:

  • pray on Thursdays for children, orphans, and especially infants dying of AIDS
  • every Thursday, do some special reading about this
  • make every Thursday the day that you engage at least one other person to raise awareness about this issue
  • go without lunch and instead make a gift to a ministry for orphans and vulnerable children
"Observing Childermas could be a complementary strategy; a "long war" to borrow an all-too-familiar phrase. Are you ready to take action that is on-going and proactive? In favour of innocents who are either orphaned when their parents are taken by a pandemic through no fault of their own, or worse yet, born with AIDS? When top political and cultural figures promote behaviours that fail to dampen the spread of infection, and behind it the death phase of the pandemic, and the deluge of orphans.There are more and more people who want to do something more substantial than just making a donation, but they don't know how. Here is one suggestion - choose a way to observe Childermas, and stick with it."

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu on the hit reality TV show Humanitarian Survivor!
Apparently they were both voted off (see below).

One of the things I love about blogging is how much I learn while doing it. I was vaguely familiar with the name Desmond Tutu - nobel peace prize recipient, opponent of apartheid, humanitarian, Anglican cleric - but I really didn't know much about him before I started googling "Childermas." Here I was going to do a silly little entry about the historically brutal observation of Childermas - a tradition I would never have even known about had it not been for my Forgotten English calendar - and now I've found an amazing person whom I'm going to have to learn more about. But not as much as Angelina Jolie, apparently, who topped a readers poll of the best celebrity humanitarians of 2007 yesterday. Tutu came in third, despite the fact that he'd forgone the "Billy Bob" phase of his life.

WAIWAIWAIT! NO! Hold on! Wait! No! Wait! Hey! Come ON! Cut to a picture of me now! Look at me NOW! No, seriously! Oh, come ON!

Oh, alright. It's the least I could do!

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