THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29: At one time, today’s feast was second only to Christmas among Christians across the United Kingdom: it’s the Feast of Saint Michael, known also as Michaelmas.
Christians still recognize St. Michael today—the archangel whose name means “Like God” and who is best known for having defeated Lucifer in the war of Heaven—but once-widespread customs have all but been lost through the centuries. (Eager to learn more? Keep reading! The Oxford Times also describes assorted traditions.) Though sometimes depicted in white robes, St. Michael is a warrior; devotees commonly pray to St. Michael for help in times of temptation.
In centuries past, Christians would prepare for Michaelmas by collecting nuts on Sept. 14, known as “Devil’s Nutting Day,” and crack nuts in church on Michaelmas Eve. (Wikipedia has details.) Michaelmas Day was never complete without a feast—in fact, it was said that anyone who did not eat well today would lack wealth in the coming year. Traditionally, a goose was cooked on Michaelmas Day (click here for recipes including roast goose with apples or St. Michael’s bannocks), and everyone marked the associated change in seasons. (Kids can get into the fun by creating Apple Dolls.)
So many customs! Ever pluck petals on a Michaelmas Daisy?
The Irish prayed for protection against sickness on this, one of the most vital feasts of the year, and Germans predicted coming weather with the Michaelmas goose breastbones. Ever wonder where the tradition came from that instructs a lover to pluck daisy petals and predict whether “he loves me” or “he loves me not?” That’s right, the Michaelmas Daisy! (Read more customs at CatholicCulture.)
Today’s Michaelmas indicates little more than the first term of the academic year at schools in the UK, and even the renowned Newbury Michaelmas Fair is in danger of termination. (Read the article here.) But don’t fear—many Michaelmas customs can be celebrated in the home! Honor history by invoking St. Michael over a goose dinner, complete with blackberry crumble or apple pie.