Christianity’s Feast of the Ass was widely observed in mediaeval France. It honoured all the donkeys in the Bible, but particularly the one that is traditionally held to have carried Jesus’ family into Egypt following Jesus’ birth, an event known as the Flight into Egypt. The family was evacuating at the time because of Herod the Great’s policy of executing all male infants.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with a donkey, providing another biblical account of a donkey. It is also widely held that a donkey was present at the birth of Jesus. The ancient Roman festival Cervulus served as an inspiration for this celebration, which was first observed in the eleventh century and is related to the Feast of Fool
The feast began being celebrated less and less throughout the second part of the fifteenth century after the Catholic Church formally spoke out against it. In this era, the Feast of Fools also lost popularity. Both celebrations were considered as not being respectable, but, this was far more the case with the Feast of Fools than it was with Feast of the Ass.
It’s possible that the Christian celebration of the Nativity of Christ is an adaption of the pagan festival Cervulus, with the donkey serving as a symbol of the new religion. Its origins can be traced back to the 1100s and its focus on commemorating biblical figures and events. The ‘Sermo contra Judaeos’ is also credited with adding a pseudo-Augustinian flavour to the work.
Less people participated in the festival after the Catholic Church condemned it openly in the second half of the 15th century. During this time, the Feast of Fools was also deemed inappropriate. However, the Feast of Fools was seen as inappropriate considerably more so than the Feast of the Ass.
The donkey that is traditionally believed to have carried Jesus and his family to Egypt after his birth is celebrated during the Feast of the Ass together with all the other donkeys mentioned in the Bible. The family was on the run from Herod the Great, who was known to have ordered the deaths of male children at the period.
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There is another donkey mentioned in the Bible: the one Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Legend also has it that the manger where Jesus was born also housed a donkey.
At those time, a girl would ride a donkey through the streets of town on her way to church.
People would chant that she was pregnant as she rode through the streets. The donkey was fed and watered at the church, where it remained near the altar throughout the service. It wasn’t uncommon for the priest to bray back to the throng, and the crowd to do the same. The city of Beauvais, in northern France, went all out for the Feast of the Ass.
How to Celebrate Feast of the ASS DAY:
Take a trip on the back of a donkey
If you happen to own one, Feast of the Ass Day is a great excuse to go for a spin. To view one live and in person, though, you may just go to a zoo.
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Learn more about the background of the celebration by reading up on it.
Get a Bible and read it for yourself to find out what happened. Surprise your pals with what you’ve learnt after reading “Flight to Egypt” and show off your newfound knowledge.
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Have a game night centred around donkeys.
No reason exists why you shouldn’t enjoy yourself while partying. Games like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” can be played during a party with a donkey theme.
Frequently Asked Questions
What feast day is January 14th?
The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum, asinaria festa; French: Fête de l’âne) is a medieval, Christian feast observed on 14 January, celebrating the Flight into Egypt.
What Feast do we celebrate on September 15?
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated on September 15, is a day the Congregation of Holy Cross celebrates the Virgin Mary as their patroness under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows.