Until this year, my only exposure to Michaelmas was a reference in Jane Austen novels and films.
What is Michaelmas, you ask?
Good question. As I’m just now discovering these traditions and attempting to observe them, I expect that a good deal of what I say will be inaccurate rubbish. Feel free to correct what I’ve gotten wrong and take everything else with a grain of salt. That being said…
Michaelmas (pronounced Mickel-mas) is a feast day celebrating St. Michael the Archangel, St. Raphael, and St. Gabriel. Surprisingly, considering my complete ignorance of this feast day until recently, Michaelmas used to be quite a big deal. In fact, it was a Holy Day of Obligation until the 18th century and was a principal Feast of Christ for Lutheran Christians.
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 has something to do with Tobias in the book of Tobit which I won’t pretend I’m familiar with. Maybe next year.
How do you celebrate it?
FOOD. At least that how we’re going to celebrate it. Although goose is traditional, no geese could be found in our grocery stores this Michaelmas so we’re sticking with chicken.
Carrots, another typical Michaelmas staple, WERE available at the store although they’re not quite ready to be plucked from our garden. I decided to try this recipe sans whiskey because I didn’t feel like going to the liquor store on my way home. (I love this food blog, The Pioneer Woman Cooks!, due to all her beautiful photographs.)
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. Maybe Trinitarian as well? Our housemate Eleanor was particularly thrilled that the carrots are then tied together with red thread and carrot bouquets are given as gifts. She dreams of someday having a bridal bouquet of carrots and was pleased that she wasn’t the first to think it up. Weird, but kind of pretty, perhaps? Festive at least?
We’re also going to make St. Michael’s Bannock which is a traditional Michaelmas bread with a recipe from The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould.
Some friends are bringing a blackberry dessert as blackberries are also traditional. 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.
Pictures to come tomorrow. And yes, Marmee and Geema, your grandson will be featured in them.