Friday, September 25, 2009

Michaelmas: September 29th

"St. Michael" by Raphael

In the traditional liturgical calendar, September 29th is celebrated as the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. In Britain, the holiday became known as "Michaelmas," since the faithful gathered for "Michael's Mass" on that day. I wrote about St. Michael last year in honor of his feast, if you'd like to learn more about him. In the contemporary calendar, Saints Gabriel and Raphael are also honored on St. Michael's feastday, but in our home, we still call it Michaelmas and focus on the older celebration, which specifically commemorates when St. Michael cast Lucifer out of Heaven.

Here are some ideas for celebrating the holiday in your family:
  • Go blackberry picking. Legend has it that when St. Michael cast Satan out of Heaven, the devil fell into a blackberry brier and cursed it. It's supposed to be bad luck to pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day. Where we live in the Pacific Northwest is particularly famous for abundant blackberry crops this time of year. Most grocery stores don't even sell them because people can pick them anywhere--their backyard, a local field, even on the edge of the freeway! We'll certainly be picking some of these delicious berries, complete with story-telling of the legend, and bake a tasty dessert with them to celebrate. I'm toying with the idea of this Blackberry Upside Down Cake, but I may just stick to a tried-and-true lattice-top pie. Can't go wrong with pie.
  • Roast a goose! You heard me: goose. If you can get one. And, if you like the taste. Personally, I find it to be an acquired one. Nonetheless, goose and Michaelmas just go together and always have done. For one thing, they were abundant this time of year in the British Isles where Michaelmas was celebrated in style, particularly during the Middle Ages. It was considered to be good luck if your family could afford a goose for the occasion. The bird was also a sort of symbol for St. Michael, seeing as they both have wings. If you can't obtain (or don't wish to obtain) a goose, do consider roasting some sort of poultry for dinner: a chicken or a duck, perhaps.
  • In England, St. Michael has long been associated with St. George. St. Michael cast out Satan, who is often depicted as a serpent. St. George was legendarily famous for slaying dragons. The connection is easy to see. Why not gather the family around to enjoy a read aloud of St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. The gorgeous illustrations, reminiscent of medieval illustrated manuscripts, give a historical and liturgical flavor to the tale that is perfect for Michaelmas.
  • Talk about St. Michael with your family. Young boys, in particular, seem to be drawn to St. Michael's heroism and position as the commander of God's Heavenly host. Speak about how we, as Christians, are warriors for Christ. Talk about the significance of this calling. Ask each family member to commit to one way in which they can strive to boldly do battle for God's Glory in the coming year.
  • Make toy swords with the little boys in your life (this is easily done by cutting out cardboard in the shape of a sword and gluing tinfoil to the "blade" portion). You can fashion some angel wings, too, if you'd like. Let the boys don whatever play armor they've got. Then, let them have at it!
  • St. Michael is God's chief warrior against Satan. It is fitting that, on his feast day, we would seek his intercession and protection against the devil's snares in our own lives. Pray that St. Michael would defend you and your loved ones from the temptations of Lucifer, and that he might aid you in your fight as God's warriors. Again, this goes over particularly well with the lads of the household.

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

St. 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 Divine Power of God --
cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.



  1. I always love the references to Michaelmass in Jane Austen's stories...I especially love that I know what they mean! I guess that makes me a little bit of a literary snob :)
    We will definitely be honoring St Michael next Tuesday in our family! (We like to add the St Michael prayer to the end of our family Rosary!

  2. LOVE the St. Michael prayer. I pray it often!

  3. Beth,

    You don't have to post this - but I have to chuckle a bit at your suggestion of cardboard swords and the inevitable "end" said sword will reach - that is, you will soon find that with your little man, he will undoubtedly spear something as is programmed in him courtesy of God-given differences in boys and girls - and alas, said sword will be a crumpled mess in no time. So, instead of ONE sword per little boy, may I suggest - oh - a dozen? Only THEN will he be busy with the challenge for more than 10 minutes. Boys are invariably drawn to contact and "squishing" (read: destroying) things!

    Enjoy.... :-)

  4. Awesome post. Things I did not know about.


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