The Everyday Lore Project

21 January 2020 – St Agnes' Day

21 January 2020 – St Agnes' Day

Today I’m fasting for St Agnes. It’s said that if you fast between midnight on 20 January (St Agnes’ Eve) and midnight on 21 January (St Agnes’ Day), you will dream of your future husband. Which is a little strange given that St Agnes was so opposed to marriage that she martyred herself rather than take the plunge. Anyhow, at midnight on 21 January, having drunk only water for 24hrs, if you go to bed, lie on your left side and say the following three times:

Saint Agnes is a friend to me
In the gift I ask of thee
Let this night my husband see

Bob will be your lobster and you’ll dream of your future husband. However, there are qualifiers. If instead you dream of multiple men, don’t worry, just don’t recycle your dress after the first (or second) ceremony. And if you don’t dream of any man, again don’t worry, you’ll just have more you-time to enjoy all that money you saved on not booking a honeymoon.  

So, today I have not been eating. As I am a teen of the 80s, I remember taking part in many sponsored fasts at school to help feed the world (in my defence, I was too young to understand just how wrong that sounds), so today is not without precedent. However, this didn’t stop me from having a massive panic last night and cramming as much food as I could into my mouth until it was time to go to bed. 

Luckily, I woke up full of thunderous phlegm and malaise and didn’t feel much like eating anyway. Until I did. Which was just before 10am when I felt my stomach rumble, followed by that feeling of hollow queasy hunger that somehow sits in both your belly and your gullet simultaneously. Like it’s doing right now. But so far I’ve resisted the temptation to succumb to the many food fantasies who have been my constant companions throughout the day. Fantasy favourites such as hot cheese, hummus, soup, macaroni cheese, sausage and mashed potatoes and gravy, hot buttered boiled potatoes, gnawing my own foot off (I might have been a little feverish at this point), noodles with lots and lots of salt and tahini sauce, noodle soup, fatty, salty roast potatoes with rosemary and more salt, (I may be a little dehydrated), sweet and sour vegetables, and a bag of party mix crisps – the ones with the consistency of Skips that stick to your lips.

But apart from said phlegm, and the odd bit of skin from my chapped lips, I’ve managed to stay true and consume nothing except copious amounts of water (mixed with the odd sachet of rehydration salts). However, as I won’t know the outcome until tomorrow, I’m posting now and you’ll just have to trust that I won’t suddenly bust out a bowl of leftover curry from Sunday. Covered in salt. Not on my mind. At all. 

Update to follow tomorrow.


Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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