Today is St. Crispin's Day. Since the middle ages this day has been known as "The Shoemaker's Holiday" and traditionally shops were closed for a day of merrymaking and revelry.
My shop is closed today. I've closed my shop on St Crispin's day for nearly thirty years...and I'm a better man for it.
On the other hand Dekker says in his play "If it be not good, the Devil is in it" (1612) that Monday is the shoemakers holiday.
"This is not St. Crispin's Day," remonstrated somebody, one Monday, to a shoemaker who was sitting at his cups. "Sir," was the arch reply, "the anniversary of St Crispin is the first Monday in every week."
So, just to be safe I take Monday afternoon off as well.
From "The Romance of the Shoe" by Thomas Wright:
In olden times St. Crispin's Day (Oct.25th) was kept by the shoemakers almost everywhere as a holiday. the morning saw a grand procession of cordwainers with banners and music, some being dressed to represent Crispin, Crispianus, the Princess Ursula, and other personages of the legend. The cordwainers of London, however, outdid those of all other towns in gaity. The whole livery assembled in the hall (which was spread with rushes), every man in a new gown, and then proceeded to church, led by singing clerks chanting as they went. On their return they seat themselves to a banquet. A log fire in which is thrown a scented Indian wood called sanders burns on the hearth. All the freemen of the company are present, with their wives and sweethearts. They have met to have a good time, and they have it. The table groans with beef and game pasties. Sausages are served sizzling. Gispens and peg tankards are emptied. Metheglin, piping hot, is drunk from "jolly bottomless cups." the noisy jest goes round. They "birle" to one another (drink one another's health). The women blush and giggle when they are sprinkled with sweet water (scent). The loving cup, filled with generous wine, goes round. Feasting over, the officers for the year are elected. Speeches are made. there is animated talk regarding the condition of the trade. It is clear that in this world nothing really matters except leather. Suddenly there is a braying of trumpets. In come the mummers in comical dresses--some of them, as might be expected at a cordwainers' feast, wearing goats' heads--they perform a hundred queer antics. So droll are they that the women, ceasing from their affectation and simpering, cannot restrain themselves from screaming, while the men rock with laughter and roll off their settles. The players are begged to desist. It is too excruciatingly funny. The musicians make ready. citterns and citoles are tickled. Rotes, lutes and rebecs drone, violins wail, songs are sung and when all is over the revellers turn, laughing, shrieking and joking into the street, where linkboys are waiting to light them home.
For those of you who have never been to the HCC AGM, something very like Wright's description is happening as we speak.
I give the birle to those feasting and celebrating in Delavan, and to all our members and collegues in the Trade:
"Trowl the bowl, the jolly nut-brown bowl,
And here, kind mate, to thee;
Let's sing a dirge for Saint Hugh's soul, and down it merrily."
Happy St. Crispin's Day.