In Great Dunmow, Essex, England, Flitch Day is held every four years.
Flitch Day originated in neighbouring Little Dunmow, and used to be annual. A flitch of bacon is presented to any newlywed couple who, after a year and 1 day of marriage, can say that they have not for a single moment regretted their marriage. The couple has to give their oath before the whole town, kneeling in the churchyard on two stones. Then the couple is carried throughout the town, with their flitch of bacon paraded before them.
The custom may have started as far back as King Henry III’s time in the 1200s (by Lord Robert Fitzwalter, 1244.) The custom was abolished by 1809, as being vulgar, but it was revived at the end of the 1800s.
Literature & Lore
“You shall swear by custom of confession,
If ever you made nuptial trangression,
Be you either married man or wife,
If you have brawls or contentious strife
Or otherwise, at bed or at board,
Offended each other in deed or word:
Or, since the parish-clerk said Amen,
You wish’d yourselves unmarried agen,
Or in a twelvemonth and a day,
Repented not in thought any way,
But continued true in thought and desire
As when you join’d hands in the quire.
If to these conditions, without all feare,
Of your own accord you will freely swear,
A whole gammon of bacon you shall receive,
And bear it hence with love and good leave;
For this is our custom at Dunmow well knowne,
Though the pleasure be ours, the bacon’s your own.”
Full many a night they sighed out ‘Welaway!’
The bacon was not brought them home, I trow,
That some men have in Essex at Dunmowe” — Wife of Bath, Chaucer.
“He may fetch a flitch of bacon from Dunmow” is an old saying referring to a man who is very kind to his wife.