Happy St Distaff Day!

Partly worke and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaffs day:
From the Plough soone free your teame;
Then come home and fother them.
If the Maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the Maides bewash the men.
Give S. Distaffe all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night.
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation (Robert Herrick, "St Distaff’s Day")



Before Spinning Jenny and industrialism changed the life of everyone, usually every woman in a working household from child to crone carried a distaff (or rock, German "Rocken") with her, an instrument that keeps unspun flax or wool from becoming tangled. Spinning was probably the most important chore, even for the well-off and nobility.

With the Twelve Days of Christmas over, January 7th marked traditionally the first working day of the year, usually observed with a few pranks, as Herrick describes them, and a twinkle in one's eye - such as canonising a tool. Correspondingly, this day was known as St Distaff Day, or more profane, as "Rock Day".

With flax set on fire by the menfolk and the latter doused with buckets of water by the women it seems though that not very much was accomplished in terms of getting work done.

(a bit) more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Distaff%27s_Day