Showing posts with label medieval feast days. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medieval feast days. Show all posts

Monday, October 1, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 19: Michaelmas

Today's word is Michaelmas (noun, of course), the feast day of St. Michael, otherwise known as the Archangel Michael. 

I chose Michaelmas because I'd meant to write about it on September 29th and subsequently forgot.  Michaelmas is a milestone date in the medieval calendar: harvest-time, formerly a holy day of obligation, and recognized as the fall quarterly when accounts were settled between peasants and their overlords.  One of my favorite, oft-read books as a child was Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, depicting life from the point of view of a thirteen year old girl in England in1290 .  It's brilliant.  I still read it to this day actually, because it paints a vivid picture of the feast days, the uncertainty of life and the wonder that inhabited the world in those days.  Michaelmas was one such feature and showed the peasants "settling accounts" with (and trying to cheat) Catherine's father, and the entire community feasting and carousing.  Lammas (first of August, marking harvest) and Michaelmas marked the passing of time, the days before All Hallows and the coming on of winter, like our own Labor Day or even this rash of football Saturdays that spread across town.  (Even more appropriate as this football team's color is an unmistakable shade of red.)  I remember being absolutely fascinated with celebrations long-gone that sounded like Christmas.  That was before I understand what the "mass" implied and some of the mystery went out of it, but still... curiosity is and always has been fuel for me.

Michaelmas, I came to learn some years ago, is how Oxford and other British universities mark the beginning of the autumn term, called Michaelmas Term.  The first week of classes (called North Week) begins the first week of October.  The spring term is Hilary, the summer term is Trinity. 


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