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Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (also 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 day in the Western Christian calendar that occurs on 29 September. Because it falls near the equinox, it is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. 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."
In Christianity, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honoured for defeating Lucifer in the war in heaven. 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 the United Kingdom and Ireland as one of the quarter days.
During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century. 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." 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. On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, a procession was held.
Traditional meal for the day includes goose (a "stubble-goose", i.e. one prepared around harvest time) and a special cake called a Struan Michael, St Michael's bannock, or Michaelmas Bannock. Nuts were traditionally cracked on Michaelmas Eve.
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, and often, Uriel. The Bible itself identifies only Michael as "the archangel" (book of Jude, verse 9) and does not identify any other creatures as being archangels.
It is used in the extended sense of autumn, used 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. These are typically those with lengthy history and traditions, notably the Universities of Glasgow, Cambridge, Oxford, St Andrews, King's College London, Durham, Aberystwyth, Dublin, Kent and the LSE.
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.
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)
Old Michaelmas Day falls on October 11 (October 10 according to some sources). 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.
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