The Feast of the Ass on January 14 began as a medieval Christian feast, and commemorates the Israelites’ flight into Egypt. It was predominantly observed in France as a variant of the Feast of Fools, which commemorated biblical donkey-related narratives, particularly the donkey that carried the Holy Family into Egypt following Jesus’ birth.
History of Feast of the Ass Day
This feast may be a Christian adaptation of the pagan feast, Cervulus, and incorporating the Nativity story’s donkey. It was first held in the 1000s and celebrated various Bible stories. Additionally, it had a pseudo-Augustinian influence credited to the ‘Sermo contra Judaeos.’
After the Catholic Church publicly condemned the celebration in the second half of the 15th century, it became less popular. The Feast of Fools was also condemned during this period. Both feasts were thought to be improper, albeit the Feast of Fools was regarded as such far more than the Feast of the Ass.
The Feast of the Ass honors all of the Bible’s donkeys, particularly the one thought to have transported Jesus and his family to Egypt following his birth. The family was escaping Herod the Great’s assassination of young boys at the time. The donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is another biblical account of a donkey. A donkey is also said to have been present in the manger where Jesus was born.
A girl would ride a donkey through a town to a church on the day. As she rode through the streets, people would sing a song about her carrying a baby or being pregnant herself.
Once the donkey reached the church, it was given food and water and stood near the altar for the service. The crowd would bray back to the priest, and the priest would occasionally bray as well. The Feast of the Ass was especially rowdy in the city of Beauvais in northern France.
Feast of the Ass Day timeline
In Egypt, donkeys are domesticated for the first time.
The first Feast of the Ass celebration is held.
The Feast of the Ass and the Feast of Fools’ celebrations cease because the Catholic Church denounces them.
Miniature donkeys make their first appearance in the United States.
Feast of the Ass Day FAQs
What kind of donkey did Jesus ride?
A Nubian donkey. The Nubian donkey wears a cross on its back because it is believed that on Palm Sunday, this breed of donkeys brought Jesus to Jerusalem.
What does a donkey signify spiritually?
In ancient cultures, donkeys had a special symbolic and spiritual importance. Nevertheless, their link with Christ in the New Testament has led to them being viewed as a symbol of human suffering and our salvation hopes.
What characteristics do donkeys possess?
Donkeys, unlike horses, are not easily scared and have a great sense of curiosity. Donkeys are known for their defiance, however, this stems from their highly advanced sense of self-preservation.
How to Celebrate Feast of the Ass Day
Ride a donkey
On the off chance that you own one, why not take a ride to celebrate Feast of the Ass Day. Alternatively, you can visit the zoo to see one in the flesh.
Read up on the holiday’s history
Grab a Bible and learn about the story for yourself. Read the “Flight to Egypt” and surprise your friends with all the new information you’ve learned.
Play donkey-themed games
There’s no reason you can’t have fun while celebrating. You can host donkey-themed games, such as “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
5 Facts About Donkeys That Will Blow Your Mind
Few and then far between
Donkeys can significantly differ in size; they can be a mere 26-inches or as tall as 68-inches.
A donkey’s digestive system utilizes over 95% of what they consume.
Going the distance
In the desert, a donkey's bray carries about 60 miles.
Donkeys have the ability to see all four of their feet at once.
A donkey is more powerful than a horse of similar size.
Why We Love Feast of the Ass Day
We learn more about them
We get to learn more about donkeys and the role they played in popular Bible stories. Donkeys have an interesting history and we use this holiday to appreciate their versatility.
We’re animal lovers
We love animals of all kinds. They make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
Moving in high company
Donkeys were the transport mode of choice for the Messiah. That has to count for something, right?
Feast of the Ass Day dates