The Greatest Holiday in a Married Man’s Life
Happy Flitch Day! What’s Flitch Day, you ask? It’s the day you get ALL the bacon for being a good husband. Yeah, now you’re listening. All you have to do is make it a year and a day without regretting your marriage…IF YOU CAN.
The custom goes back at least as far as 1104 A.D., when monks would offer a whole side of salted pig to any couple that could prove they had been married a year and a day “in harmony and fidelity and had not wished they were single again.” Establish your bona fides–i.e. make sure your marital strife is locked down so none of your nosy neighbors can snitch on your flitch pitch. What’s a flitch? Well, that’s half a pig torso for all the bacon and babybacks you can stuff down your peasant gullet.
Of course, being a good husband you’ll share with your wife, but anybody who’s ever taken his girlfriend out to dinner knows she never gets more than three ribs into the rack. Odds are looking good the sweet meat is yours to eat. AND THEN THERE IS STILL BACON.
Beware! It it’s not going to be easy. Even though there are often multiple flitches available to as many happy couples managed to make it through a year without hurling cow pies at each other, they are vigorously defended by the ancient and vulnerable Donors of Bacon (that’s totally their real name). This millennia-old institution safeguards its precious pork for only the most deserving candidates. One does not give out The Special Bacon lightly. Why, ’tis many places as go two and thirty years, sirrah, with nary a flitch of bacon prized.
If you live in certain parts of England, this is a real, ongoing holiday that was well known even in the time of Chaucer. Different localities celebrate it with varying details: some reserve this important holiday, like the Olympics, for every four years. That means you get a Leap Day and a Flitch Day every four years!
If you celebrate it at Wychnor Hall, there’s only one flitch available, and the winning couple gets it upon reciting a solemn oath that they’re being a good match. Because if there’s one thing solemn enough to swear upon, it’s BACON. Then they’re carried away in triumph upon the crowd’s shoulders in The Ancient Flitch Chair — holy cow, they have a throne dedicated to love and bacon!
But if they fail, the chair gets carried away empty, followed by the sad, lesser couple whose love was not as strong and who will surely argue over whose fault that is. Their heads hung in shame, they accept their runner-up prize…
…A slab of gammon.
Do you know what gammon is? Gammon is where ham begins its ascent into bacon. It’s beautiful like bacon, and rich like ham–basically it’s ham’s second marriage, to a trophy wife who nevertheless has a good heart. It’s the liger of pork products. Most people would keep their mouths shut about stealing the covers for at least a month if you promised them some gammon. If marital bliss isn’t reason enough to treat your beloved right, what about the bacon? Don’t let some other newlyweds filch your flitch.
If you don’t live in England, you can set all your own rules and call them “local traditions” in about ten years. You may be compelled to buy your own bacon and be honest with yourselves about how good you’ve been to each other all year. Or you can celebrate by curing a slab of pork belly together. The possibilities, unlike the bacon, are endless.
Finally, know ye that this wonderful tradition has a long line of wags like us teasing gender relations. A 1714 mockument purports that the first several applicants for the flitch all failed because they couldn’t stop bickering and clobbering each other. So, marriage: it’s not getting any less hilarious.
Now, all together! The oath!
You shall swear by custom of confession,
That you ne’er made nuptial transgression;
Nor, since you were married man and wife,
By household brawls, or contentious strife,
Or otherwise at bed or board,
Offended each other in deed or in word,
Or since the parish clerk said, Amen,
Wished yourselves unmarried again,
Or in twelvemonth and a day,
Repented in thought any way,
But continue true in thought and desire,
As when you joined hands in holy quire.
If to these conditions without all fear,
Of your own accord you will freely swear,
A whole gammon of bacon you shall receive,
And bear it hence with love and good leave:
For this is our custom at Dunmow well known,
Tho’ the pleasure be ours, the bacon’s your own.
Brendan McGinley makes his own bacon — but the literal kind, not the sexy marriage kind.
Speaking of ancient British traditions, he recently praised Craig Ferguson as a modern bard. –>