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Labors of the Months

activities grapes pruning wood

The cycle of human activities associated with the months and seasons of the year derives from classical art and appears in a variety of medieval artistic contexts. With some variation according to climate in different geographic areas, the monthly labors focus upon agricultural activities and frequently are paired with the twelve signs of the *zodiac. The labors of the months are found especially in illustrations of calendars in manuscripts, in architectural sculpture, and in stained glass. In the yearly cycle, human figures will be depicted performing the following tasks or activities: January: feasting or keeping warm by the fire (sometimes the ancient Roman double-headed god Janus is represented doing such); February: keeping warm by the fire, chopping wood, pruning trees; March: pruning or digging; April: training vines, picking flowers, hawking; May: hawking, scything; June: mowing hay, shearing sheep; July: mowing, reaping, cutting corn; August: threshing, harvesting; September: threshing, treading grapes, sowing, plowing; October: sowing, plowing, harvesting and treading grapes, thrashing trees for acorns; November: thrashing for acorns, slaughtering a pig or ox, baking, gathering wood; December: slaughtering or roasting a pig, baking, digging, feasting. In later medieval Books of Hours the more leisurely pursuits of the aristocracy may be interspersed with the labors of the peasants.
Lacoste, René [next] [back] Labor Troubles - Presentation Performers and Projectionists, Musicians, Movie Actors, The Depression

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