Michaelmas Traditions: Prayers, Food, and Flowers

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Michaelmas is quickly approaching: September 29th (next Saturday)! It will come as no surprise to you that I love St. Michael’s Day. It was the first feast we celebrated when we started observing the Christian Year in 2009, the Fall before our conversion to the Catholic faith.

What is Michaelmas?

Michaelmas (pronounced Mickel-mas) is a feast day celebrating the Archangels. It follows the fall Ember Days  during which Christians traditionally thanked God for his creation and the bounty of the earth and fasted penitentially. Michaelmas was a Holy Day of Obligation until the 18th century and honors St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. My linguist husband particularly likes the name Michael which means in Hebrew “Who Is Like God?” and is the battle cry of the angels. St. Michael fought against Lucifer and the fallen angels and defended the friends of God. You probably remember that St. Gabriel announced the coming of Jesus to the Virgin Mary and also the coming of John the Baptist to Zachariah. St. Raphael is found in the book of Tobit.

Michaelmas Menus:

For a seasonal table for Michaelmas, think of autumnal foods. Usually our Michaelmas feast is full of beta-carotene.

Carrots are very traditional. According to a Scottish custom, women would harvest wild carrots on Michaelmas by digging triangular holes with a three-pronged mattock. Apparently the holes represent St. Michael’s shield and the mattock represents his trident.

I love this Whiskey-Glazed Carrots recipe by The Pioneer Woman. These are seriously amazing. Whiskey? Butter? Brown Sugar? Can you go wrong?

St. Michael’s Bannock on the left!

Another traditional food is St. Michael’s Bannock, a simple, sweet bread. We’ve used the recipe from Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home. It’s super easy and turns out well.

Goose is also very traditional but we’ve discovered that it’s almost impossible to find an organic goose that’s remotely in our price range. So, we’ve cooked turkeys or chickens for the occasion. Last year we roasted sweet potatoes and onions with the chicken which turned out so yummy.

Blackberries: There’s a legend concerning Lucifer falling into a blackberry bush after being expelled from heaven by St. Michael and spitting on the blackberries to make them bitter so that they cannot be picked after Michaelmas.

On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on the blackberries.

-Irish Proverb

We’ve had blackberry buckle and blackberry cobbler but since they’re not in season right now in Florida, we try to just get organic frozen berries.

A super easy and yummy blackberry cobbler recipe is The Pioneer Woman’s.

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.

Amen.

Michaelmas Daisies:

The aster flower, also known as the Michaelmas Daisy is in season in North America at the end of September. We meant to grow some from seed but…never got around to it. Last year my two sweet boys picked beautiful Daisies they found and Bachelor’s Buttons and Marigolds from our garden to decorate our Michaelmas table because I was almost 9 months pregnant:

What a pretty sight to wake up to on Michaelmas morning!

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.”

How does your family celebrate the Feast of St. Michael and the Archangels?

For recipes and reflections on the Christian Year, check out Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year.

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Comments

  1. Tess says

    This is really cool! I’ve been a Catholic my whole life and I had never heard of the feast of Michaelmas before, but now I’m hoping to incorporate some of these traditions into celebrating it this year! Thank you for such an interesting post and bringing to light this beautiful old holiday. :)

    • Haley says

      It’s such a fun one and I always feel like it beckons Fall into being (which is important after another hot, Florida summer!). Hope you enjoy celebrating the Archangels! :)

  2. says

    Your celebration sounds like a lot of fun – I never knew there were certain foods traditionally used to celebrate this feast day. Methinks I’m going to try to make the Saint Michael’s bannock this year in an effort to make it into a tradition for our family (my family has deep Irish roots and we always make Irish soda bread to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so the bannock fits right in with that tradition).

    Love the Michaelmas prayer – it’s one of my favorites! :)

    • Haley says

      Ah, St. Michael’s bannock is so tasty. I’m going to try for a gluten-free version because my son is allergic…we’ll see : /

      I love that prayer, too!

  3. says

    I’m new to the concept of feast days in general, but from what I have seen so far I am a big fan. My husband and I are just starting to get into the liturgical calendar and I love the tradition and meaning behind the various important days. I will definitely be trying out the bannock and the turkey/onion/sweet potato combo you mentioned. Yum!

    • Haley says

      Observing the liturgical calendar has been such a delight for us and so helpful in establishing spiritual rhythms for the year. Hope you enjoy your feast :)

  4. says

    Making the carrots and the cobbler tonight. Gotta love the Pdub ;).

    Thanks for all the info…I love celebrating with traditional foods so much more than something like angel-shaped sandwiches!

    Happy Michaelmas!!

  5. says

    I think this year I will take photos and post our Michaelmas celebration. I use and old copy of The Catholic Cookbook it covers feast days from around the world. It is really cool that we have so much history as Catholics. I love your enthusiasm for the Catholic Church and all of the wonderful traditions of the faith. There are so many traditions, that you could find a new one everyday. I am a cradle Catholic, and it always warms my heart when someone finds their way to our church! God’s Blessings to You!

  6. Rachel says

    We celebrate Michaelmas as part of our patron saint celebrations each year, as my husband and my son are named Michael. We also celebrate st. Elizabeth of Hungary and st. Nick’s for the same reason (as I am a convert, I took st. Nicholas as my confirmation name despite being female ;) ). We make or sometimes buy a cake and put happy feast day, st. Michael and all the archangels on it for Michaelmas. This year I am looking for a craft project for my two year old twins to do… I am thinking about letting them glue feathers on angels I cut out of construction paper. And we will pray together as a family – there is actually a chaplet of st. Michael you can get from ewtn.

  7. Ginny Southard says

    My daughter forwarded this to me. I am 78 and a Lutheran most if my life and am now in RICA. Pray for my journey. This is fascinating. I love to cook. I’ll plan a Michaelmas feast for my Catholic friends.

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