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Catholic Activity: Housecleaning for Holy Week II

It is traditional to spend the early part of Holy Week (or Passion Week) in housecleaning. Florence Berger describes this tradition, and offers a few spring tonics for the tired feelings after such hard work.


Monday morning [during Holy Week], however, comes too soon; and this, of all Mondays, begins housecleaning. Now there is a tradition that I could live without. Oh, yes, I have listened meekly to the sermons on the cleaning of your house as a symbol of your soul's Lenten renewal. I have washed walls and scrubbed floors and hoped that the forgiveness of sin was being effected. I have thought of all the saints and our Holy Mother Mary who may have housecleaned in order to set me an example. But when I am all finished, I am not renewed. I am just plain tired. I can't feel blithe and sinless because all I want to do is go to bed. On those nights our dinners come out of a can. I have also found that a cup of chamomile tea is a valuable sedative or "nightcap" for husbands suffering from housecleaning.

Perhaps if I would follow a few traditional herbal remedies "that tired feeling," I, too, might be better off. There is a lovely one which reads:

If they would drink nettles in March And eat mugwort in May So many, fine maidens Wouldn't go to the clay.
These are days of the spring tonic.

He who would live for aye Must eat sage in May.

You can drink about one-fourth teaspoon rubbed sage in a cup of hot milk for a cold or longevity. But, then, sage is not too exciting. Perhaps we housecleaners would get more of a lift from the old German Maitrank or May drink. The kinderlein would run off to the woods when the leaves of the trees were bursting. There in the mottled shade they would gather the top tips of sweet woodruff. Then mama would stew sugar over the sweet woodruff leaves, and let them stand while she sliced up an orange. In the meantime, papa would clump down to the wine cellar and dust off three old bottles. Two were white wine, one light and one heavy, while the third was sparkling champagne which he would add the last minute before serving. Then mama and papa and all the little ones would drink to the May and forget the housecleaning for the day.

Activity Source: Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999

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