Merry Childermas!

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, once known in the Anglophone world as Childermas. This curious word is an elision of “Mass of the Children,” that is, the liturgical commemoration of those little boys of Bethlehem who were massacred by Herod the Great. The suffix serves as a reminder that the principal way to observe such a day was to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Similarly, Christmas literally means “Christ’s Mass.” The reader ought to appreciate the double irony of hearing modern-day Presbyterians or Congregationalists wishing each other a “Merry Christmas.” Their forebears not only regarded the Mass as idolatrous superstition, but also shunned and condemned the festival of Our Lord’s Nativity on December 25 as more of the same Romish rubbish.

Besides Christmas and Childermas, other liturgical feasts with the -mas suffix are:

  • Candlemas, February 2, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, upon which day candles are blessed in the traditional Roman Rite, a lovely reference to the Nunc Dimittis of holy Simeon, who declared Our Lord to be “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32). Candlemas traditionally marked the end of the Christmas season.
  • Roodmas, or Crouchmas, May 3, is the Feast of the Invention (Finding) of the Holy Cross. The “Holy Rood” is another name for the Holy Cross.
  • Marymas, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, August 15.
  • Michaelmas, the Feast of St. Michael, September 29, on which day one might be able to find a Michaelmas daisy.
  • Allhallowmas or Hallowmas, November 1, is the Feast of All Saints.
  • Soulmas, November 2, is All Souls Day.
  • Martinmas, Saint Martin’s feast, November 11.
  • Andermas, the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30.

A Ladymass is not a particular feast day, but any Mass offered in honor of Our Lady. Another Christian observance that uses the suffix, though not a liturgical feast properly so called, is Lammas, or Loaf Mass Day, a traditional Christian harvest-time observance in Scotland. It has since been coopted by silly neo-pagans. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, for hundreds of years, the Mass (and even Christmas) were outlawed in that nation whose flag bears the cross of Saint Andrew.

See what happens when the Mass is despised? The divine Babe gets thrown out with the bathwater and genuine superstition supplants traditional Christian piety.

Triumph of the Innocents by William Holman Hunt (source)