Lost Monday or sworn Monday (French lundi perdu or lundi parjure) is a Belgian tradition that is generally celebrated on Monday after Sunday after Epiphany- on 6th of January. This tradition is particularly steadfast in the province of Antwerp and remained in Tournai. In Aalst lost Monday was held in early October and “Hot sandwiches” were eaten, more precisely bread loaves which were still warm from the oven. In Sint-Truiden lost Monday is celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday; then the annual carnival procession will travel through the streets of the city. In Belgium, especially in Flanders in the province of Antwerp, the tradition is to eat sausage loaves and apple dumplings on that day. Many stories and urban legends circulate about the origin of this use, one more accurate with the historical information than the other. A number of very likely hypotheses can be put forward on the basis of historical facts.
In archival documents mentioned this day as a “sworn Monday”: for instance a certain Lorraine document from 1231 speaks about of the “lundi parjuré“, the day on which some civil servants took their oath. This indication, however, was not limited to the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany. After all, there is also an other idea of the “sworn Monday of Easter” or the “sworn Monday of Christmas”. In Antwerp this is mentioned in a church account from 1431, and later also in a city account from 1513. However the first “lost Monday” is only encountered in 1730, in Leuven. Here too it would be a day that was “lost” which meant that there was no work on that day, because of the festivities on the occasion of the swearing in of civil servants. Such ceremonies were sometimes followed in Antwerp by a party. To keep that party affordable for the city, people were given a cheap meat sandwich. Since the civil servants did not work for the rest of that day, that day was soon christened as “lost Monday”.
A variant of this story is that in former times around the beginning of the 18th century very powerful guilds organized their New Year’s Eve party on “lost Monday”. The celebration lasted in the whole day, and the craftsmen did not go to work. Also the reading of guild books, containing the rights and duties of the craftsmen, would have led to a “lost Monday”. After this, it has been stated, that the patron would have gassed his guild members after a drink. This use was reportedly in vogue especially in Antwerp. In other municipalities guild members went door-to-door to offer New Year’s wishes in the name of their patron. It seems fairly safe to assume that this also led to hostel visits and absenteeism. In other regions, other names apply to similar days: “weaver’s Monday” in the Westhoek, “kopermaandag” in the Netherlands. “Kopperen” had the meaning: “to feed with food and drink”.
Haven of Antwerp
Haven of Antwerp was a famous hostel. And in the 19th century one of its hostel inspector came up with a brilliant idea to the innkeeper. For example, they would have strived to keep their customers in their business for as long as possible, for example by ensuring a (salt and thirsty) snack. In collaboration with butchers and bakers, they also treated their customers to roast meat and freshly baked bread. To keep it cheap, one used mainly fatty meats, processed into sausage and packaged in dough. The innkeepers ate the sausage, and the fat-permeated bread was given to the dog! Other sources refer to the port of Antwerp. Traditionally, the dock workers were allowed to drink on the Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany at the expense of the nation’s bosses. They were offered something warm to eat, composed of ‘unsalable’ meat and bread. That “lost bread” would then be the origin of the specific name of that day.
Sausage bread and Apple dumpling
The eating of real sausage bread, as we now know, it is first mentioned in 1913 in the book by Edward Poffe: “Pleasant men in a pleasant town.” According to him, the use would only have arisen after 1880. Only after the Second World War did the sausage bread at the bakery cause a great influx of “lost Monday.” To this day this tradition has been maintained and in some traditional Antwerp catering businesses, treating customers to sausage bread and / or apple dumplings!
The Aalst (it is the biggest carnival town in Belgium) tradition would result from the use in early October of cleaning the kerosene lamps in the factories and filling them because, due to the shortening of days, artificial light had to be worked. As a result, it was not possible to work that day and the workers also received no wages: a lost Monday. The tradition lasted the longest in the De Kat district (Vredeplein), with their Kattekermis, but is now completely extinct.