National Flitch Day
annually on July 19th
Food & Drink
History & Culture
A flitch is a measurement for bacon. It is half or one side of a pig and is now known as a slab in the United States. Flitch Day is based on and dedicated to an old English custom which goes back to at least the thirteenth or fourteenth century, and by some accounts to 1104. The custom was also mentioned in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which was published in the late fourteenth century.
The custom mainly took place in two locations: Whichnoure (now Wychnor Hall), Staffordshire, and Little Dunmow in the Uttlesford district of Essex, England. In Little Dunmow, married couples would prove that neither one of them had had any thoughts over the previous year and a day in which they wished that they hadn't been married. The couple would kneel in the churchyard on two hard, pointed stones while taking an oath in front of monks and the rest of the town. If it was believed that they hadn't had any thoughts of regret, they were given a flitch of bacon and were paraded around town. It was quite rare for a couple to actually be given a slab of bacon. The custom lasted until the mid-eighteenth century. It was also brought to America by English colonists but was not long practiced there.
William Harrison Ainsworth published the novel The Flitch of Bacon in 1854, which became popular in Britain and helped revive the custom. Regular events started being held in Great Dunmow, just a few miles from Little Dunmow. They are still held there every four years on leap year. Couples are cross-examined by a counsel and then have to convince a jury made up of six bachelors and six maidens that during a year and a day of being together they never once wished they weren't wed. The jury tries to disprove their claim so that the bacon can be saved for the days' sponsors. Successful couples are paraded through High Street and then get a flitch of bacon.
How to Observe National Flitch Day
The day is meant to remind us of the tradition, but that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with it as well. Pick up a slab of bacon and give it to a married couple whom you believe is dedicated to each other. Or just buy it for yourself—today sounds like a pretty good excuse to buy a lot of bacon. You could also read William Harrison Ainsworth's The Flitch of Bacon. If it is a leap year, you could attend the Dunmow Flitch Trials, which usually take place the same month as National Flitch Day.