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September 29St. Michael the Archangel's Feastday (Michaelmas)

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Michael is the most often mentioned archangel in the Bible. Catholics have made Michael the patron saint of a rather incongruous group consisting of artists, bakers, gravediggers, grocers, milliners, mountaineers, paramedics, paratroopers, police officers, radiologists, sailors, and soldiers. in Hebrew, Michael means who is like unto God. His popular warrior image comes from the book of the Apocalypse (Revelations) in which Michael leads God's faithful angels against Satan and his rebellious angels in the battle of Heaven.

In art,. Michael is often pictured with a sword in his hand. Occasionally, the winged Michael is also represented on horseback in full battle gear. The incongruousness of a winged angel on horseback has apparently never bothered too many artists. Even more incongruous was John Travolta playing a somewhat scruffy Michael complete with feathered wings in the 1996 film Michael.

St. Michael's feastday is called Michaelmas in the United Kingdom where it is still a popular celebration It was also one of the English, Welsh and Irish quarter days when accounts had to be settled. In English manors, it was the day when a reeve (an official elected annually by the peasants to supervise lands for a lord) was elected. Traditional meals for the day include Michaelmas goose, a scone-like bread called a St Michael's bannock, and blackberry pie

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 and fell into a blackberry bush. Satan then cursed the brambles as he fell into them. This is the basis for celebrating Michaelmas with blackberry pie

There is a lovely old English tradition that one celebrates Michaelmas by sleeping as late as one wants. Here is an eighteenth-century verse commenting on this tradition:

Nature requires five, Custom requires seven; Laziness takes nine, And Michaelmas eleven.

The traditional Michaelmas food in England is roast goose with sage and onion dressing. This dish has almost the popular traditional role as roast turkey on Thanksgiving in the United States. The tradition goes back to Queen Elizabeth I who was eating roast goose when she received news that England had won a major victory over the Spanish Armada. To celebrate this victory she ordered that Michaelmas Day always be celebrated with roast goose, which coincidentally was her favorite dish. The traditional Michaelmas goose is always roasted with sage and onion stuffing because this traditional English stuffing was also the Queen's favorite.

There is also a traditional English hors d’œuvre called Angels on Horseback which, although not traditional for Michaelmas Day, celebrates the symbolic inconsistency of the popular image of St. Michael. These hors d’œuvre were a popular dish with the early colonists and have been adapted to various regional variations. In Spanish California they are calledostras angeles. Another variation called Angelenos includes wrapping the oyster with an anchovy fillet before the final wrapping with bacon

Michaelmas Goose (Roast Goose with Sage Stuffing)


1 11 to 13-pound goose, fat removed from cavity 1 lemon, halved 8 medium onions 6 cloves garlic, minced 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored 1&1/2 TB rubbed or ground dried sage

2 TB dried sage 3 TB grated orange zest 2 tsp salt freshly ground pepper to taste 1 14-oz bag cubed herbed stuffing mix 1 cup chicken stock


  1. Boil onions until tender crisp (about 5 minutes). Drain and chop roughly.

  2. Peal. core, and chop apples into approximately 1" pieces. Mix with stuffing mix, salt, pepper, zest and sage. Add stock and mix well. Set aside.

  3. Preheat oven to 450° F.

  4. Rub goose inside and out with halved lemons. Season goose inside and out with salt and pepper. Fill main cavity and neck cavity loosely with stuffing. Place any remaining stuffing in small buttered baking dish and cover.

  5. Wrap goose in cheesecloth.

  6. Place goose on rack set into large roasting pan. Roast goose 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F. Continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part to thigh registers 180°F., basting every 20 minutes with pan juices, about 1 hour 20 minutes. (Place stuffing in covered baking dish in oven during last 40 minutes.) Remove cheesecloth. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before removing dressing and carving

Serves 6.

Angels on Horseback


1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 tsp garlic powder 4 TB butter 1 dozen fresh shucked oysters

1 dozen bacon strips 4 TB breadcrumbs 3 slices toast, crusts removed and quartered salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Brown breadcrumbs in butter. Set aside

  2. Combine lemon juice and garlic powder in a bowl. Add shucked oysters for and marinate for 1/2 hour.

  3. Remove oysters from marinade.

  4. Preheat oven on to broil.

  5. Wrap each oyster with a strip of bacon. Skewer with a toothpick.

  6. Broil wrapped oysters until bacon crisps, turning once.

  7. After broiling, roll wrapped oysters in browned breadcrumbs and serve on toast squares.

Serves 4

Struan Micheil (St. Michael's Bannock)

There are many recipes on bannock including different grain types, depending on the availability of various grains and flours, and the times during the year that the bannock loaves were cooked and for what purposes they were made. In Ireland, the bannock is typically made from a wheat flour. Barley flours were used extensively in Wales. The Welsh version of St. Michael's bannock is called Struan Micheil. Folk tradition has it that the baker imbues each loaf with a blessing during every stage of the bannock: mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, leaving it to proof, baking the bread, and a special blessing if it was a gift. It was traditional to bless each bannock as it is removed from the oven


1 cup barley flour 1 cup wheat flour 1/2 cup rolled oats 1 cup sugar 1 cup white raisins 1/2 cup buttermilk 2 TB baking powder

2 TB baking soda 1 TB sea salt 1 TB allspice 1 TB cinnamon 1 TB cloves 1 TB nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 375º F

  2. In a large bowl, sift both flours together. Add salt, baking powder and soda to sifted flours. Resist flour mixture. Add the spices and sift again.

  3. Add oats, sugar, and raisins to floor mixture. Slowly add the buttermilk and mix by hand until mixture forms a ball.

  4. Next, turn the dough out onto a well-floured board. Knead, turn about 50 or 60 times. and re-flour as needed. Shape into a round flat cake about 1&1/2 inch thick. Score top of loaf with a cross.

  5. Bake as for 25 minutes.

Michaelmas Blackberry Pie


1 egg 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie 4 cups fresh blackberries 1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 TB grated orange zest 2 TB milk 1/4 cup white sugar Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 º F

  2. Beat egg with 1 TB water. Brush bottom of unbaked pie crust with egg/water mixture. Bake for 8 minutes to help seal bottom from getting soggy from berry juice.

  3. Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar, zest and flour. Spoon the mixture into partially baked pie shell.

  4. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust or or the traditional heart shaped crust pieces. Seal and crimp the edges if using full crust. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

  5. Bake at 425 º F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375º F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and filling is hot and bubbly.

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