Michaelmas (pronounced Mickel-mas), or the Christian Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated in the Anglican churches on the 29th of September every year and is a a traditional harvest festival day. The eastern Orthodox Church does not recognise Michaelmas but celebrates the archangels on November 8th.
Michaelmas Day is within a week of the Autumn equinox and is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. In the United Kingdom, it is also one of the “quarter days”. There are four “quarter days” in the UK (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December).
They are approximately three months apart and are near to other religious festivals, solstices or equinoxes. They were also the four dates on which servants were hired, rents became due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of a new farming year. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. Michaelmas became the time in the year for electing magistrates and for the beginning of legal, public schools and university terms. The "Michaelmas Term" is more commonly known as the Autumn term in most schools in the UK.
St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors and the protector against the negative forces which are stronger in the longer dark days. It was believed that families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year. As Michaelmas is after the Autumn equinox it is the time when the darker nights and colder days begin. Michaelmas celebrations are associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. St Michael was also the chief opponent of Satan and his evil angels.
A Michaelmas Prayer:
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, also known as "green goose", fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest - as opposed to the Christmas goose which is fed on corn. The Michaelmas goose is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:
“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.
Sometimes the day was known as “Goose Day” and goose markets and fairs were held. In modern times, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. Amongst the reasons for eating goose at Michaelmas is that, according to legend, Queen Elizabeth I heard of the defeat of the Spanish Armada whilst she was eating goose. She resolved from that time on to eat goose every Michaelmas Day. It could also have developed through the role of Michaelmas Day as the debts were due; tenants requiring a delay in payment may have tried to persuade their landlords with gifts of geese!
In British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day, 10th October, is the last day that blackberries should be picked. It is said that on this day, when Lucifer was expelled from Heaven, he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush. He then cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, spat and stamped on them and made them unfit for consumption! And so the Irish proverb goes:
“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries”.
The Michaelmas Daisy flowers between late August and early October and provides colour and warmth to gardens when the majority of flowers are coming to an end. As suggested by the saying below, the daisy is probably associated with this celebration because, as mentioned previously, St Michael is celebrated as a protector from darkness and evil, just as the daisy fights against the advancing gloom of Autumn and Winter.
“The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”
(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)
Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets and the iconic Welsh Tapestry blankets which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool and Global Welsh.
Last update 27th September 2020
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