Friend butterfly, friend butterfly, go fetch them one and all!
I’m waiting here to welcome every guest;
And tell them it is Michaelmas, and soon the leaves will fall,
But I think Autumn sunshine is the best!
—Cicely Mary Barker
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;
and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not . . .
Michaelmas, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, is celebrated each year on September 29th. Its close proximity to the equinox makes it an ideal time to recognize the change of the seasons, and to prepare for the waning of daylight that happens as we turn away from the sun (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere). A celebration for the Archangel Michael, who symbolizes light and protects against evil, helps to prepare one to face not only the physical darkness of the fall and winter months, but also the metaphoric darkness that we face both in the world and in ourselves. While we certainly don’t want to terrify our children, we must guide them as they inevitably begin to see the world as it truly is. The Christian apologist C.S. Lewis remarked in his essay On Three Ways of Writing for Children:
Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage . . . I think it is possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones . . .
In the morning on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, I usually gather Michaelmas daisies (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (L.) G L Nesom – formerly Aster novae-angliae L.) and other types of “wild asters” in the woodlands around my house. Even though St. Michael is associated with the color red, I’ve always liked the contrast of yellow and purple so I use a yellow tablecloth and yellow cloth napkins on the table—you can create a beautiful, vibrant, golden yellow using the last of the summer’s marigold flowers as a natural plant dye. The children (if they’re home) and I spend most of the day cooking our favorite Michaelmas feast day foods, which we all enjoy together in the evening. Each year I try to gift the children with some small token to remind them of the angels who surround them and intercede on their behalf.
I encourage you to read Michaelmas, a sonnet by the poet Malcolm Guite, which begins: Michaelmas gales assail the waning year, / And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright . . . This poem strikes just the right tone for the season and the feast. You might also enjoy exploring these titles:
For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating Michaelmas, visit my Pinterest board!
Michaelmas Feast Day Menu
We typically eschew the roast goose (I’m a vegetarian), but we do incorporate several other traditional Michaelmas foods into our menu each year, including carrots and blackberries—British folklore says that Michaelmas is the last day that blackberries can be picked because when Satan was thrown from heaven he fell into a blackberry bush and cursed the fruit.
from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
3 lbs carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces (1/2″ or less)
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable oil of some sort
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
3 c vegetable broth, of vegetable bouillon cube in 3 cups water
1 can coconut milk (13 oz)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1. Cook carrots and onions in the oil, covered, until mostly softened.
2. Add the spices and garlic and cook for another minute or so.
3. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Add coconut milk and bring to a low boil.
5. Puree half to all of the soup using a blender, then add the maple syrup.
Saint Michael’s Bannock
adapted from several recipes
(this is not a traditional bannock, but more of a very hearty tea bread)
1/2 c rye flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 & 1/2 c white flour
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c white raisins
1 & 1/2 c buttermilk*
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
*Buttermilk can be made using any cow’s milk of your choice and a tablespoon of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar per cup of buttermilk required. Add the juice or vinegar first, and then fill to the desired measuring line.
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl, sift both flours together.
2. Add salt, baking powder and soda to sifted flours. Add the spices and stir until mixed.
3. Add oats, sugar, and raisins to flour mixture.
4. Slowly add the buttermilk and mix by hand until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.
Mixed Berry Crisp
adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma
4 c frozen mixed berries (including blackberries, which are a traditional Michaelmas food)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 c light brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter or margarine, softened, cut into pieces
3/4 c rolled oats
1. Preheat an oven to 375° F. Grease a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or margarine, or spray with vegetable cooking spray.
2. Spread the berries evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
3. In a bowl, using a pastry blender or fork, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter and rolled oats until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.
4. Bake until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling, about 30 minutes.
5. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Serve hot or warm, with ice cream or whipped cream!