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A Michaelmas Goose Market

Michaelmas

Greetings to everyone, especially my fellow history nerds. It’s September 28th, time for another installment of my Quarter Days blog.

Southwark Fair, September 1733, Hogarth

I’m a huge fan of feasting holidays, and much to my surprise, Michaelmas, September 29th, is one of those.

Harvest Time

It makes sense though. In every culture where there’s an autumn harvest, there’s an autumn harvest festival, like a Polish Dozynki or a German Oktoberfest. Some sources say that Michaelmas is still celebrated in England with roast goose and other goodies, like this fun Michaelmas dragon bread.

Last June I blogged about Midsummer’s Day, one of the Quarter Day holidays, and pretty self-explanatory. The same is true for this holiday—tomorrow is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, he who battled Satan. 

In Fiction

I first encountered a mention of Michaelmas in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and most recently saw a reference in fellow Regency author Caroline Warfield‘s latest release, The Reluctant Wife, where a character must get back to England for the Michaelmas Term at his university. For a historical author, a mention of Michaelmas is a wonderful device for setting the time of the story without citing a specific date.

Paradise Lost

One blogger claims that St. Michael was popular in Regency England because of the influence of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, a late seventeenth-century epic work. Researching this post inspired me to pull out my copy of the Complete Poems and Major Prose of Milton which, to be honest, I haven’t opened since my university days.

Paradise Lost is something of an early paranormal story of nearly invincible beings and shapeshifters:

…the sword of Michael from the Armory of God was giv’n him temper’d so, that neither keen nor solid might resist that edge: it met the sword of Satan with steep force…deep ent’ring sher’d all his right side; then Satan first knew pain…but th’ Ethereal substance clos’d not long divisible…Yet soon he heal’d; for Spirits that live throughout vital in every part not as frail man….cannot but by annihilating die…All Heart they live, all Head, all Eye, all Ear, All Intellect, all Sense, and as they please, they Limb themselves, and color, shape or size assume as likes them best…

A Servant Hiring Hall, Rowlandson

Contracts, Rents, and Work

And of course, as I mentioned in my June post, Michaelmas was a day to pay rents (possibly in kind, with a fatted goose) to hire and pay servants, and sign contracts.

Do you celebrate Michaelmas? If so, please share in the comments!

Have a magical Michaelmas, and I shall return in three months to talk about the next Quarter Day, Christmas!

 

2 Comments

  • mariannehdonley
    on September 28, 2017

    I’ve read about Michaelmas–maybe Agatha Christie–but didn’t know the date or the reason for the holiday. Since September 29th was my dad’s birthday we celebrated anyway. I wonder how he would have felt if Mom had presented him with a roasted goose. I think he would have been a fan of the dragonbread.

    • alinakfield
      on September 28, 2017

      That dragon bread looks pretty cool! I might have to try making a loaf.

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