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Life in the 1500s Europe

Life in the 1500's Maddox genealogyWebmaster's Note:  Nobody seems to know who wrote this little piece but it's widely reported on the Internet.  At the risk of publishing this article with NO research, we offer it anyway but with the caveat just because it's so darned interesting.  If nothing else, we learn a bit about our language and become even more grateful we were born when we were.  Imagine living in a time with no antibiotics, no ligitimate surgery, no emergency rooms, no C-section births, and in times of Plagues and when a barber's nick shaving a face could cause death to incurable infection!  In anycase, we don't know at the Maddox site if  the orgins of these traditions and sayings are are true, but they sure make sense, and have us wondering even more about what it was like to live 500 years ago, as some of our ancestors did--makes you wonder how we got here at all!

Why people traditionally marry in June

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May
and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to
smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the B.O. (body odor.).

Throwing the Baby out with the Bath Water

Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the
privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the
women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was
so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't
throw the baby out with the bath water."

Raining Cats and Dogs?

Houses had thatched roofs. Thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath.
It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets... dogs, cats,
and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained
It became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the
roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs,"

Origin of Four Poster Beds

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a
real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess
up your nice clean bed. So, they found if they made beds with big posts and
Hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful
big 4 poster beds with canopies.

Origin of Door Threshholds

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence,
the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors, which would get
slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help
keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until
when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood
was placed at the entryway, hence a "thresh hold."

Peas, the pot 9 days old..."

They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire.
Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate
vegetables and didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner
leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the
next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for a
month. Hence the rhyme: peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge
in the pot nine days old."

Chewing the fat

Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that
happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it
to show it off. It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really bring
home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would
all sit around and "chew the fat."

The nasty 'trench mouth'

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content
caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often with
tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes ... for 400 years.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers-a piece of wood with
the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trencher were never washed and a lot of
times worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would
get "trench mouth."

"The upper crust of society"

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the
loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust."

Holding a 'wake' for the dead

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes
knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would
take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the
kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat
and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding
a "wake."

More morbid sayings

England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury
people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house
and reuse the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were
found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been
burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist
and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a
bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for
the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was
"saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer."