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Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael
Saint Michael the Archangel
Observed by
Date29 September (Western Christianity)[3]
8 November (Eastern Christianity)[4]

Michaelmas (/ˈmɪkəlməs/ MIK-əl-məs; also known as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) is a Christian festival observed in many Western Christian liturgical calendars on 29 September, and on 8 November in the Eastern Christian traditions. Michaelmas has been one of the four quarter days of the English and Irish financial, judicial, and academic year.[5]

In the Christian angelology of some traditions, the Archangel Michael is considered as the greatest of all the angels; being particularly honored for defeating the devil in the war in heaven.[6]


Saint Michael defeats the Dragon, from a 12th-century manuscript.

In the fifth century, a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Saint Michael the Archangel on 30 September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day. 29 September is now kept in honour of Saint Michael and all Angels throughout some western churches.[7] The name Michaelmas comes from a shortening of "Michael's Mass", in the same style as Christmas (Christ's Mass) and Candlemas (Candle Mass, the Mass where traditionally the candles to be used throughout the year would be blessed).[8]

During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century.[9] In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman's year, George C. Homans observes: "at that time harvest was over, and the bailiff or reeve of the manor would be making out the accounts for the year."[10]

Because it falls near the equinox, this holy day is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. It was also one of the English, Welsh, and Irish quarter days, when accounts had to be settled. On manors, it was the day when a reeve was elected from the peasants.[11] Michaelmas hiring fairs were held at the end of September or beginning of October.[12] The day was also considered a "gale day" in Ireland when rent would be due, as well as a day for the issuing or settling of contracts or other legal transactions.[13]


On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, a procession was held.[9] One of the few flowers left around at this time of year is the Michaelmas daisy (also known as asters). Hence the rhyme: "The Michaelmas daisies, among dead weeds, Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds ..."[12]

In Ireland, (Irish: Fómhar na nGéanna), pilgrimages to holy wells associated with St Michael took place, with pilgrims taking a drink from the holy water from the well. The greeting "May Michaelmas féinín on you" was traditional. Boys born on this day were often christened Michael or Micheál. In Tramore, County Waterford, a procession with an effigy of St Michael, called the Micilín, was brought through the town to the shore to mark the end of the fishing season. In Irish folklore, clear weather on Michaelmas was a portent of a long winter, "Michaelmas Day be bright and clear there will be two 'Winters' in the year."[13]


A traditional meal for the day includes goose known as a stubble-goose (one prepared around harvest time, fattened on the stubble fields)[14][15] also known as an embling or rucklety goose.[16] There was a saying that "if you eat goose on Michaelmas Day you will never lack money all year".[15] Tenant farmers sometimes presented the geese to their landlords, as could be stipulated in their tenancy agreements. The custom dates to at least the 15th century, and was easily continued as geese are in their prime at Michaelmas time.[15]

One association of geese with Michaelmas comes from a legend in which the son of an Irish king choked on a goose bone he had eaten, and was then brought back to life by St. Patrick. The king ordered the sacrifice of a goose every Michaelmas in honour of the saint. The Irish Michaelmas goose was slaughtered and eaten on the day; they were also presented as gifts or donated to the poor. In parts of Ireland sheep were also slaughtered with tradition of the "St. Michael's portion" donated to the poor. Poultry markets and fairs took place to sell geese as well as mutton pies.[13] In Ulster, it was traditional for tenants to present their landlord with a couple of geese, a tradition dating back to Edward IV. There were differing methods across Ireland for cooking the goose, most generally using a heavy iron pot on an open hearth. In Blacklion, County Cavan, the goose was covered in local blue clay and placed at the centre of the fire until the clay broke, indicating the goose was cooked.[16]

Another legend surrounding the origin of the Michaelmas goose is that Queen Elizabeth I was eating a goose on the holiday when she heard of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and thus proclaimed that geese should be eaten by everyone each year in commemoration of the victory. This falls apart when the date (geese and Michaelmas were connected at least a century earlier, if not longer) and the timing of the battle (August) are considered.[15]

The custom of baking a special bread or cake, called Sruthan Mhìcheil (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [ˈs̪t̪ɾ ˈviːçal]), St. Michael's bannock, or Michaelmas bannock, on the eve of the Feast of Saint Michael, the Archangel, probably originated in the Hebrides. The bread was made from equal parts of barley, oats, and rye without using any metal implements.[17] 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.[18]

Nuts were traditionally cracked on Michaelmas Eve.[19]

Folklore in the British Isles suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St. Michael expelled the devil, Lucifer, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, stamped, spat, and urinated on them, so that they would be unfit for eating. As it is considered ill-advised to eat them after 11 October (Old Michaelmas Day according to the Julian Calendar), a Michaelmas pie is made from the last of the season.[14] In Ireland, the soiling of blackberries is also attributed to a púca.[13]

Differences in number of archangels

Stained glass of the four archangels, at the Anglican Church of St James, Grimsby. From left to right: Raphael, Michael, Uriel, and Gabriel

In the Roman Catholic Church on 29 September three Archangels are celebrated: Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael. Their feasts were unified in one common day during the second half of the 20th century. In the time before their feasts were: 29 September (only St Michael), 24 March for St Gabriel,[20] and 24 October for St Raphael.[21]

The Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition honour eight archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Jeremiel, Salathiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel.[22] Along with Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel, the Book of Enoch, regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, mentions (in chapter 20) Raguel, Saraqael, and Jerahmeel (Remiel).[23]

In the Lutheran, as well as in the Anglican/Episcopalian traditions, there are three to five archangels in their calendars for the 29 September feast for St. Michael and All Angels: namely Michael (Jude 1:9) and Gabriel (Daniel 9:21),[1][7] and often, Raphael (Tobit 12:15), Uriel (2 Esdras 4:1 and 2 Esdras 5:20) and Jerahmeel (2 Esdras 4:36).[A][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Autumn term in universities

Michaelmas is used in the extended sense of autumn, as the name of the first term of the academic year, which begins at this time, at various educational institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and those parts of the Commonwealth in the northern hemisphere.[11] These include the universities of Cambridge, Durham, Lancaster, the London School of Economics, Oxford, Swansea, and Dublin. However, the ancient Scottish universities used the name Martinmas for their autumn term, following the old Scottish term days.

Use by legal profession

The Inns of Court of the English Bar and the Honorable Society of King's Inns in Ireland also have a Michaelmas term as one of their dining terms. It begins in September and ends towards the end of December.[30]

The term is also the name of the first of four terms into which the legal year is divided by the courts of Ireland[31] and England and Wales.[32]

In the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland, a Red Mass is traditionally convened on the Sunday closest to Michaelmas, in honor of and to bless lawyers and judges.[33]

While terms are not used by most courts in the United States, where court calendars are usually continuous and year-round, the U.S. Supreme Court operates on an annual term and roughly follows the English custom by beginning that term on the first Monday in October, a few days after Michaelmas.

Modern observances

Blue Mass

Because Saint Michael is the patron of police officers, Michaelmas may also see a Blue Mass.[34] Lutheran Christians consider it a principal feast of Christ, and the Lutheran Confessor, Philip Melanchthon, wrote a hymn for the day that is still sung in Lutheran churches: "Lord God, We All to Thee Give Praise"[35] (The Lutheran Hymnal 254), which shares its tune with the Old 100th hymn.[36]

Michaelmas is still celebrated in Waldorf schools. Rudolf Steiner considered it the second most important festival after Easter. The celebration of this holiday teaches the importance of facing fears and strengthening resolve. As the first festival of the new school year, it is celebrated with an all-school play, in which each class assumes a role, such as peasants, townspeople, nobles, etc. Students assume a new role as they pass from grade to grade, and it becomes something of a rite of passage.[37]

In the City of London, Michaelmas is the day when the new Lord Mayor of London is elected, in the Common Hall.[38]

In Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, Michaelmas has been observed since 1786 as Goose Day. Local tradition holds that eating goose on 29 September will bring prosperity. The good-luck goose connection comes from the historical legend (see above) concerning Queen Elizabeth I, who was said to be eating goose on Michaelmas in 1588 when she received news that her royal navy had defeated the Spanish Armada. The Juniata River Valley began celebrating this version of Michaelmas when a Pennsylvania Dutchman named Andrew Pontius moved his family to neighboring Snyder County to farm. When his farm prospered, he decided to hire a tenant farmer to help. On his way to Lancaster to hire a German immigrant, he stopped in Harrisburg for the night where he met a young Englishman named Archibald Hunter, who was offered the job. The contract that was drawn for employment contained a clause specifying their accounts were to be settled each year on the traditional day to do so, 29 September. When that day came, Hunter appeared at Pontius' door with his accounts and a goose, explaining that in England, eating a goose on 29 September brought good luck. The tradition spread to nearby Lewistown, Pennsylvania, where it is still honored today with many local restaurants and civics groups offering goose dinners, local festivals, and other county-wide activities. In honor of the holiday, painted fiberglass goose statues can be found throughout the county all year long.[39][40]

Old Michaelmas Day

Old Michaelmas Day falls on 11 October (10 October according to some sources – the dates are the result of the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar so the gap widens by a day every century except the current one). It is said that the Devil fell out of Heaven on this date, and fell into a blackberry bush, cursing the fruit as he fell. According to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date (see above). In Yorkshire, it is said that the devil spat on them. According to Morrell (1977), this old legend is well known in all parts of Great Britain, even as far north as the Orkney Islands. In Cornwall, a similar legend prevails; however, the saying goes that the devil urinated on them.[12]

See also



  1. ^ In traditional Protestantism, such as the Lutheran Churches, Anglican Churches and Anabaptist Churches, Daniel lies in the Old Testament and Revelation is in the New Testament. Tobit and 2 Esdras are intertestamental books, being a part of the Apocrypha section of the Protestant Bible that straddles the Old Testament and New Testament.


  1. ^ a b Blersch, Jeffrey (21 September 2019). "St. Michael and All Angels". Pacific Hills Lutheran Church. Archived from the original on 1 February 2023. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  2. ^ Donald Spence Jones (1898). The Anglican Church. Cassell. p. 290.
  3. ^ Blackburn, Bonnie; Holford-Strevens, Leofranc (2000). The Oxford Book of Days. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 392. ISBN 0-198-662602.
  4. ^ Blackburn & Holford-Strevens 2000, p. 452.
  5. ^ Philip's Encyclopedia. Philip's. 2008. p. 511. ISBN 978-0-540-09451-6.
  6. ^ Richard Freeman Johnson (2005), Saint Michael the Archangel in medieval English legend, Boydell Press, p. 105, ISBN 1-84383-128-7, retrieved 11 July 2010
  7. ^ a b "29 September". Exciting Holiness. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Definition of Michaelmas". Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Michael the Archangel". 1 October 1911. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  10. ^ George C. Homans, English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century, 2nd ed. 1991:354.
  11. ^ a b Johnson, Ben. "Michaelmas, 29th September, and the customs and traditions associated with Michaelmas Day". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Rob Taylor (7 October 2010). "Michaelmas Traditions". Black Country Bugle. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d McGarry, Marion (27 September 2019). "Geese, daisies and debts: Michaelmas customs in Ireland of old". RTÉ Brainstorm. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Are we ready to embrace the Michaelmas goose once again?". Food. BBC News. 29 September 2012. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d Simpson, Jacqueline; Roud, Stephen (2001). A dictionary of English folklore. Oxford paperback reference. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-19-860398-6.
  16. ^ a b Mahon, Bríd (1998). Land of Milk and Honey : The story of traditional Irish food and drink. Dublin, IE: Mercier Press. pp. 135–137. ISBN 1-85635-210-2. OCLC 39935389.
  17. ^ Oulton, Randal W. (13 May 2007). "Michaelmas Bannock". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  18. ^ Goldman, Marcy (c. 2014). "Peter Reinhart's struan: The harvest bread of Michaelmas". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
    Also here
    Reinhart, Peter (16 May 2017). "Struan: The harvest-bread of Michaelmas". (article & recipe). Charlotte, NC: WBTV.
  19. ^ Koenig, Chris (21 September 2011). "Merry times at the Michaelmas Feast". The Oxford Times. Oxford, UK. Archived from the original on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
    Also here
    Koenig, Chris (21 September 2011). "Merry times: Michaelmas feast". The Oxford Mail. Oxford, UK. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  20. ^ Butler's Lives of the saints, vol. 1, edited by Herbert Thurston and Donald Attwater, Christian Classics, 1981 ISBN 9780870610455
  21. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 143)
  22. ^ Parry, Ken; Melling, David J.; Brady, Dimitri; Griffith, Sidney H.; Healey, John F. (8 November 2000). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. John Wiley & Sons. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-631-18966-4.
  23. ^ "First Enoch - Chapter XX / Chapter 20 - Book of 1 Enoch, Parallel 1912 Charles & 1883 Laurence, Pseudepigrapha Online Parallel Bible Study". Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  24. ^ "Truss Carvings: Heroes of the Faith". Trinity Lutheran Church. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  25. ^ website. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  26. ^ "St. Uriel the Archangel". Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2015. Also here
  27. ^ Episcopal Church, Standing Liturgical Commission. The proper for the lesser feasts and fasts: together with the fixed holy days, Church Hymnal Corp., 1988, ISBN 978-0-89869-214-3. p. 380
  28. ^ "Michael and All Angels". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  29. ^ "Saint Michael and All the Angels" (PDF). Christ Episcopal Church Eureka. September 2007. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2008.
  30. ^ "Innerview Michaelmas Term" (PDF). Inner Temple. pp. 26–27. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  31. ^ "High Court Sittings: Law Terms". The Courts Service of Ireland. 8 May 2017. Archived from the original on 7 June 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2018. Also here
  32. ^ The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom; Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Judicial Sitting for the Michaelmas Term, Monday 4th October –Tuesday 21st December 2010 (PDF), archived (PDF) from the original on 8 April 2014, retrieved 8 November 2010
  33. ^ "Gabriel the Archangel: March 24". saints-feast-family. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  34. ^ "Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels – September 29, 2014 – Liturgical Calendar". Catholic Culture. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  35. ^ "The Lutheran Hymnal 254. Lord God, we all to Thee give praise |". Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  36. ^ "The Lutheran Hymnal |". Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  37. ^ "What Is Michaelmas And Why Do Waldorf Schools Celebrate It?", Waldorf School of New Orleans, September 26, 2019
  38. ^ "Summons to Common Hall". Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  39. ^ "Goose Day – Juniata River Valley". 25 August 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  40. ^ "What's special about Mifflin County on Goose Day?". pennlive. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2021.

Further reading

  • Morrell, P. (1977). Festivals and Customs. London: Pan (Piccolo). ISBN 0-330-25215-1

External links

7 Annotations

First Reading

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Michaelmas -- some basic information

"[The Archangel] Michael's feast day, Michaelmas (September 29 – pron. 'mikulmus), is traditionally one of the English quarter days, for settling rents and accounts ..."

-- from the website Lawrence linked to (thanks, Lawrence!).

David Quidnunc  •  Link

"Michaelmas Goose"

"It was a day for the eating of geese (hence ‘Michaelmas goose’), probably because geese are plentiful and plump in this season."

-- same source as above (only 257 Google hits for "Michaelmas Goose" -- indicating to me that not even in England nowadays is that a widely known dish -- true?)

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Quarter Days

"In English and Scottish tradition, the days on which servants were hired and rents and rates were due. The English quarter days (also observed in Wales) are:

LADY DAY (March 25)
MICHAELMAS (September 29)
CHRISTMAS (December 25)"

-- "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia."…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Michaelmas was the beginning of the English year in all respects except the turning over of the calendar year (New Years Day traditionally fell on March 25 with spring planting).

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (a.k.a. “Michaelmas”), on September 29, marked the beginning to the English legal and business year. It gave its name to the first term of the year: “Michaelmas Term”.
The agricultural, educational and religious years follow the “terms” as well

Traditionally the farmer’s year begins at Michaelmas, so this was when he paid the annual rent -- makes sense, he's just sold the harvest, so he has money.
At some point, it became customary to present the landlord with a Michaelmas goose. Sometimes the story goes that the landlord had the goose plucked and roasted on a gridiron by his household for all to enjoy on the Feast of St. Michael.

The soldier poet George Gascoigne says in the “Flowers” section of his 1573 Poesies:
“And when the tenauntes come to paie their quarters rent,
They bringe some fowle at Midsommer, a dish of Fish in Lent,
At Christmasse a capon, at Mighelmasse a goose:
And somewhat else at Newyeres tide, for feare their lease flie loose.”

That means the goose was an exaction rather than a shared dish at the feast. I suppose that all depends on the landlord and the tenant.
• EXACTION = a sum of money demanded for a payment or service.

Gascoigne also says tenant rents were quarterly, each quarter having its related exaction for the landlord’s table. This probably applied to the poorest tenants.

In the Fragmenta Antiquitatis, the earliest known reference in 1470 to the Michaelmas Goose as being part of an annual rent:

“John de la Hay took of William Barnaby, Lord of Lastres, in the county of Hereford, one parcel of land of the demesne lands, rendering therefore 20-pence a-year, and one goose, fit for the lord's dinner, on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, [attendance at] court, and other services thereupon due, &c.”

Hay is a freeman tenant who pays an annual rent and various feodary services for his land -- plus a goose.

Another Michaelmas tradition was the installations of municipal officers either selected in recent elections, or appointed by the Crown.

The City of London held a by Royal Charter giving them the privilege of electing their sheriffs rather than having them appointed by the monarch.
They celebrated this high honor by installing them on Michaelmas Day.

Most cities elected their aldermen and mayors on the days before the feast and paraded them through the streets to be welcomed by the old officeholders and installed in office on about Michaelmas day.

Michaelmas represented a fresh new start for English city governments.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


The monarch traditionally gave out the lands and offices to the most appreciated of their subjects at Michaelmas.

(I'm going to pay attention to when Barbara Villiers Palmer et al are given their "rewards" by our grateful monarch.)

In Christian folklore, it was St. Michael the Archangel who defeated Satan in the great battle of rebellion against Heaven.
Coincidentally, Michaelmas is about the time when blackberries turn bitter, so another English tradition is that this is when the defeated Satan fell to earth, landing in brambles where he spit on them. No berry-picker would forget that blackberries turn bitter around September 29.

Pepys mentions eating goose 14 times in the Diary -- never at Michaelmas or Christmas. Perhaps the tradition was already dead, or geese were expensive in towns so frugal folk like him chose to eat something else?


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

'The agricultural, educational and religious years follow the “terms” as well.'

To annotate my own annotation, the religious year starts at Advent -- 4 weeks before Christmas. Sorry 'bout that.…

I should have used the word 'civic' instead.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.






  • Jul




  • Sep