For other uses, see Michaelmas (disambiguation).
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael

Saint Michael the Archangel
Observed by Anglican Church, Catholic Church, The Christian Community, Lutheran Church,[1] Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox Church.[2]
Date September 29
Next time 29 September 2017 (2017-09-29)
Frequency annual

Michaelmas (/ˈmɪkəlməs/; also known as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) is a minor Christian festival observed in some Western liturgical calendars on the 29th of September. Michaelmas has been one of the for quarter days of the financial year.[3] The Serbian Orthodox Church observes the feast, whereas most Eastern Orthodox Churches do not.[2] The Greek and Romanian Orthodox honor the archangels on 8 November instead.

In Christian angelology, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honored for defeating Satan in the war in heaven.[4] He is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night, and the administrator of cosmic intelligence. Michaelmas has also delineated time and seasons for secular purposes, as well, particularly in Britain and Ireland as one of the quarter days.


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

In the fifth century a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Michael on 30 September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day, and 29 September is now kept in honour of Michael and all Angels throughout some western churches.[5] 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 candles used throughout the year would be blessed).[6]

During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael, was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century.[7] 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."[8]

Because it falls near the equinox, it 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.[9] Michaelmas hiring fairs were held at the end of September or beginning of October.[10]


On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, a procession was held.[7] Many of the activities that had been done at Lughnasadh – sports, games and horse races – migrated to this day.[11] One of the few flowers left around at this time of year is the Michaelmas daisy. Hence the rhyme: "The Michaelmas daisies, among dead weeds, Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds ..."[10]


Traditional meal for the day includes goose (a "stubble-goose", i.e. one prepared around harvest time).

The custom of baking a special bread or cake, called Sruthan Mhìcheil (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: ['s̪t̪ɾu.an 'viːçal]), 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.[11] 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.[12] Nuts were traditionally cracked on Michaelmas Eve.[13]

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 Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, and stamped and spat on them, so that they would be unfit for eating. As it is considered ill-advised to eat them after 29 September, a Michaelmas pie is made from the last of the season.

Differences in number of archangels

In Anglican and Episcopal tradition, there are three or four archangels in its calendar for 29 September feast for St. Michael and All Angels: namely Michael, Gabriel and Raphael,[5] and often, Uriel.[14][15][16][17] The Bible itself identifies only Michael as an archangel (Jude:9), although in I Thessalonians 4:16, there is the implication that there is more than one archangel.

Autumn term in universities

Main article: Michaelmas term

It 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 and Ireland.[9] These are typically those with lengthy history and traditions, notably the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, King's College London, University of King's College, Aberystwyth, Dublin, Glasgow, Kent and the London School of Economics.

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.

The term is also the name of the first of four terms into which the legal year is divided by the courts of Wales and England.[18]

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

Modern observances

Blue Mass

Because Saint Michael is the patron of some North American police officers, Michaelmas may also be a Blue Mass.[19] However, the same can also be said for members of the United States military, children, and several of St. Michael's other patronages. 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 to Thee We Give".

Michaelmas is still celebrated in the Waldorf schools, which celebrate it as the "festival of strong will" during the autumnal equinox. Rudolf Steiner considered it the second most important festival after Easter, Easter being about Christ ("He is laid in the grave and He has risen"). Michaelmas is about man once he finds Christ ("He is risen, therefore he can be laid in the grave"), meaning man finds the Christ (risen), therefore he will be safe in death (laid in the grave with confidence)[20]

In the City of London, Michaelmas is the day when the new Lord Mayor of London is elected, in the Common Hall.[21]

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). According to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date. This is because, so folklore goes, Satan was banished from Heaven on this day, fell into a blackberry bush and cursed the brambles as he fell into them. In Yorkshire, it is said that the devil had spat on them. According to Morrell (1977), this old legend is well known in all parts of the United Kingdom, even as far north as the Orkney Islands. In Cornwall, a similar legend prevails, however, the saying goes that the devil urinated on them.[10]

See also


  1. Donald Spence Jones (1898). The Anglican Church. Cassell. p. 290.
  2. 1 2 Владимир Стефановић. "Михољдан". Crkvenikalendar.com. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  3. Philip's Encyclopedia. Philip's. 2008. p. 511. ISBN 978 0 540 09151 5.
  4. Richard Freeman Johnson (2005), Saint Michael the Archangel in medieval English legend, Boydell Press, p. 105, retrieved 2010-07-11
  5. 1 2 "29 September". Exciting Holiness. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  6. "Michaelmas".
  7. 1 2 "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Michael the Archangel". Newadvent.org. 1911-10-01. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  8. George C. Homans, English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century, 2nd ed. 1991:354.
  9. 1 2 "Michaelmas, 29th September, and the customs and traditions associated with Michaelmas Day". Historic-uk.com. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  10. 1 2 3 "Michaelmas Traditions". Black Country Bugle. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  11. 1 2 Randal W. Oulton (2007-05-13). "Michaelmas Bannock". Cooksinfo.com. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  12. Goldman, Marcy. "The Harvest Bread of Michaelmas". BetterBaking.com. Retrieved May 13, 2015.
  13. Koenig, Chris (21 September 2011). "Merry times at the Michaelmas Feast". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  14. "urielsg4". Urielsg.org. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  15. 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
  16. "Michael and All Angels". Justus.anglican.org. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  17. Archived May 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. 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), retrieved 2010-11-08
  19. "Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels - September 29, 2014 - Liturgical Calendar". Catholic Culture. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  20. "Rudolf Steiner Archive: Lectures:GA". Fremont, Michigan US: Rsarchive.org. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  21. "Summons to Common Hall". liverycompanies.info. Retrieved 27 September 2016.

Further reading

External links

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