It’s officially autumn or fall in the northern hemisphere.
Even if it is 90° outside.
by the way, it’s pronounced “Micklemess.” you’re welcome.
Autumn Equinox Traditions
Some traditional rituals for the Celtic festival Mabon include building an altar to offer harvest fruits and vegetables, meditating on balance, gathering and feasting on apples, sharing food, and expressing gratitude. The holiday is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.
Many people gather at Stonehenge to watch the equinox sunrise.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish fall festival for the New Year.
Japan marks both equinoxes with a period called Ohigan. The Buddhist belief is the afterlife land is in the west, and during the equinoxes, the sun sets more directly on the western horizon. The equinoxes are also symbolic of the transitions of life. The week around each equinox a time to visit the graves of one’s ancestors, to tidy up the grave sites, and leave flowers. It is also a time of meditation and visiting living relatives.
Many Asians celebrate the Moon Festival on the full moon nearest to the equinox. On a lunar calendar, that is the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It is celebrated with festival activities, gazing at the moon, and eating moon cakes. In the southern U.S., Moon Pies are often used in place of moon cakes.
Michaelmas is the Catholic feast of the Archangel Michael. Some traditions use this feast day to celebrate other archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael as the Feast of the Angels. The feast day is September 29, which is celebrated as the beginning of fall in many locales. The feast day was probably set near the autumn equinox to draw the faithful away from pagan celebrations, as with most other Christian holidays. Traditions include gathering and eating nuts (which begins on Holy Rood Day on September 14), and eating a fattened goose, which was supposed to protect against financial need for the next year.
“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.
It is a time of transitions, as servants were paid their wages after the harvest and workers scrambled to find new employment contracts. The employment fairs that facilitated this custom became an opportunity for community celebration. It’s one of the quarter days, when accounts had to be settled.
In Ireland, finding a ring hidden in a Michaelmas pie meant that one would soon be married.
In remembrance of absent friends or those who had died, special Struans, blessed at an early morning Mass, were given to the poor in their names. Nuts were traditionally cracked on Michaelmas Eve.
In Scotland, St. Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is created from grain grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields. It is cooked on a lambskin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The grain is also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep are deemed the most sacred of animals. As the Struan is created by the eldest daughter of the family, the following is said:
“Progeny and prosperity of family, Mystery of Michael, Protection of the Trinity”
It is also a good time to eat blackberries, as “Old Michaelmas Day” on October 10, is traditionally the cutoff time for picking blackberries. 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, which flowers late in the growing season between late August and early October, provides color and warmth to gardens at a time when the majority of flowers are coming to an end. The daisy is probably symbolic since 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.”
Resources for Families
Michaelmas is celebrated in the Waldorf schools, which celebrate it as the “festival of strong will” during the autumnal equinox. The primary idea behind the festival of Michaelmas is to get children to face their own challenges – in other words, their internal and external dragons. Michaelmas is typically the first festival of the new school year celebrated.
St. George is the Earthly counterpart to St. Michael. Read about dragons. Read stories about St. George. Do something that requires bravery. Make a cape. Make courage tea from edible flowers or salve from calendula. This is a time for spiritual growth as a family.
Decorate with daisies.
Make chains or fill a vase with wild ones. Bunches of daisies are super cheap in the markets now.
Study the moon.
The moon is really beautiful and meaningful on clear crisp nights. We like to look at it rise on our evening walks and sometimes it’s still up during the day! We often get the binoculars to study the craters and terminator at night.
Thank a police officer.
Saint Michael is the patron saint of police officers. Stop by your local police station with a yummy treat to thank them for their service. Tell them that it’s their feast day so you brought some food for feasting and let them know that you are praying for them in an extra special way on Michaelmas. Many churches pray a blue mass.
Pick and eat and cook with blackberries.
We often like to find wild berry patches or a pick your own farm. We’ve mad jam before or pies. It’s a fun tradition with kids!
Roast a goose, chicken, duck, or turkey. Or even get a rotisserie from Costco or somewhere. Serve traditionally with carrots and apples and stuffing or homemade bread. Maybe try to roast a bannock!
Check out these great recipes!
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.
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