Sunday, September 23, 2007
Michaelmas: September 29
From a German manuscript, circa 1300
Next Saturday, September 29, is the feast of Michaelmas. The day commemorates the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael and their victory in casting the dragon (that is, the Devil) out of Heaven. Some universities in the United Kingdom use Michaelmas as the name of the first school term, too.
Lucia's school holds a Michaelmas festival every year to welcome the arrival of Autumn. Grownups and older children press fresh apple cider, bake bread and cook hearty root vegetable soups. Outside, the school-yard hosts a number of different games with the theme of "defeating the dragon." Unless the weather is absolutely miserable, families and friends share picnic blankets and eat dinner together. Lucia is looking forward to wearing the new apple-print dress for Michaelmas that I made at her request.
The old apple dress (now too small in the bodice)
Lucia's teacher sent out an email this morning with a description of the Michaelmas festival in the Waldorf school tradition:
Michaelmas is an old European harvest festival that is celebrated in Waldorf schools around the Western World. The story behind the festival is, briefly, that a dragon wanders the earth, devastating life on earth. St. George, with the help of the Archangel Michael, defeats the dragon, bringing peace to the earth and its inhabitants. The dragon can be seen in the process of the earth (in most places including Seattle in most years) at this time of year when the crops are ripe and mostly harvested, the rains have not fallen for months, the earth is dried and scorched and it seems as though the rains and winter will never come again. In the past people had to wonder at this time if the crops still growing would be brought in before the rains fell, if what they harvested would last through the long winter- who would survive? Who would not? In addition to this, autumn is often the time when our own inner dragons, who have been slumbering away during the lazy and fun days of summer, rear their ugly heads again. It is with the courage and might of Michael that we conquer our own inner dragons that we may go into the solitude and slumber of the winter in tact and with a certain amount of inner peace.
I looked online for various ways in which to celebrate Michaelmas with food, and decided that while we wouldn't cook a goose this year, I could make something with blackberries (tradition has it that the Devil landed on blackberry brambles after he was kicked out of Heaven, thereby rendering the fruit inedible) and something akin to a St. Michael's bannock. I appreciate Michaelmas as the festival to mark the beginning of Autumn. I can tell that people are itching for some sort of celebration by the proliferation of Halloween candy that appeared right after Labor Day. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to create a Michaelmas party of your own. And yes, all you Oktoberfest fans, I'm sure beer as well as hard cider will be fitting beverages for the grownups.
Aster novi-belgii, a.k.a. Michaelmas daisies
This post was updated at 8:00 am.