To those dissatisfied with both Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus used a simple illustration that must have happened many times in each city of ancient Israel.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:16-19 ESV; see also Luke 7:31-34) Some English versions use market places).
Keener, in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, explains:
Spoiled children who pretend to have weddings and funerals (one later game was called “bury the grasshopper”) stand for Jesus’ and John’s dissatisfied opponents; dissatisfied with other children who will not play either game, they are sad no matter what. The term for “mourn” here is “beat the breast,” a standard mourning custom in Jewish Palestine. Custom mandated that bystanders join in any bridal or funeral processions.
This photograph made at Nazareth Village helps to illustrate the Biblical text.