What is Michaelmas?
Michaelmas is celebrated on September 29th. It is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.
George? Michael? Dragons? And Harvest, too!
According to folklore, St. George (England's patron saint) is the earthly representative of Michael. Michael is the angel who thew Lucifer out of heaven and St. George slayed the dragons here on earth. Together, they have come to symbolize courage and chivalry and strengthening the will, bringing light to dark times.
Going back for centuries, Michaelmas celebrations were usually harvest festivals. After a long summer of hard work, the fruits of the farming families' labor paid off. The farmers rejoiced in being able to have food for the winter and money to pay off their debts for the year. The held harvest celebrations which, over time, became linked with Michaelmas day.
St. Michael's Harvest Song
In autumn Saint Michael with sword and with shield
Passes over meadow and orchard and field.
He's on the path to battle 'gainst darkness and strife -
He is the heavenly warrior protector of life.
The harvest let us gather with Michael's aid;
The light he sheddeth fails not nor does it fade,
and when the corn is cut and the meadows are bare
We'll don Saint Michael's armour and onward we'll fare.
We are Saint Michael's warriors with strong heart and mind,
We forge our way through darkness Saint Michael to find.
And there he stand in glory; Saint Michael we pray,
Lead us into battle and show us thy way.
For myself, after a Summer's excitement and light and sunshine, Michaelmas marks the start of turning inward. It is a time for fortifying our home for the coming Winter, and preparing my spirit for what can be a darker time, literally and figuratively.
Michael is the Angel of Courage and I know that I need his good example during this time of year, which is always a lean one for us financially and therefore a challenge for me mentally. This is a time for me to work on slaying my own personal dragons.
last year our dragon bread was very humble
I think this festival can be celebrated as elaborately or as simply as you'd like and still be one of beauty and reflection. We certainly tend to take the simpler route.
Last year our "dragon bread" was store-bought bread dough that we shaped into dragons. We worked on memorizing some poems during the week and I told the children stories. We used our golden playsilks as capes. We played dragons and knights and shaped dragons out of beeswax. It was simple and still a nice celebration.
When it comes to festivals, especially introducing new festivals to your family, don't feel pressure to do everything at once. Pick a few things to do that feel like a good fit for your family - perhaps read a poem together and bake dragon bread together - and then add to this next year. Add to these traditions, layer by layer, every year.
Books and Stories
Note that not all versions of these stories are appropriate for all children. You know your child best.
- The Most Beautiful Dragon in the Whole World ::: free download from Reg Down
- A Michaelmas Story: St. George and the Dragon ::: Our Little Nature Nest
- Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges
- A Dragon Bread Recipe and Verse ::: Our Little Nature Nest
- Esmirelda the Dragon polymer clay tutorial (scroll down the page) ::: Poly Clay Play
- Norberta Dragon knitting pattern ::: Knitty.com
- Michaelmas Dragon ::: Rhythm of the Home
Some families include gifts as part of this celebration.
- We have given the children golden playsilks in past. I love the Waldorf school tradition of dying golden capes with marigolds grown during the summer.
- In Waldorf school the children might make and sand wooden swords, the act of sanding being an exercise in patience and care in the weeks leading up to the festival.
- Give your children something warm to wear for the upcoming colder seasons. Many crafty mamas I know knit, crochet, or sew hats, ponchos, capes, sweaters, etc. for their children but this could be a purchased item, too. I think new long underwear showing up in dresser drawers at this time of year would be quite appropriate.
- A special candle for your table to be lit during the meals you share during Autumn would be lovely. Perhaps you could use beeswax to decorate the candle with dragons?
- Taming the Dragon: Michaelmas in the Waldorf Kindergarten ::: pdf from the Waldorf Library
- A Michaelmas Celebration ::: Tidewater School
- Waldorf and Michaelmas ::: A Polar Bear's Tale
- Our Michaelmas Festival ::: You Know How We're an Art Family
- Michaelmas ::: Homegrown Mom
- Michaelmas Dragoneering ::: The Waldorf Way
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