The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America


{ The 29th of September }

  Michaelmas is a holiday honoring St. Michael the Archangel. Michael was considered to be the chief of the angels in Heaven.

  Michaelmas was traditionally kept as the day on which various civil servants were elected to their positions. This included town and city mayors, justices of the peace, and so on.

  It was the custom, in the latter part of the 18th Century, for a bell to be rung after the town officials were elected and sworn in to their positions. The bell summoned the townspeople to assemble in the main streets of the town for the purpose of throwing cabbage stalks at each other. The fray would last for an hour, which time was known as "the lawless hour" whose end was signalled by another bell.

  The courts throughout Great Britain and the American Colonies were conducted in four (i.e. quarter) terms during the year. The Michaelmas Term was the first quarter of the legal year, and traditionally started soon after Michaelmas.

  Since Michaelmas was the start of the first quarter term in the legal calendar, it served as a day of reckoning, when debts and rents were due to be paid.

  The traditional feast held on Michaelmas consisted of roast goose and bannocks. Michaelmas also was a celebration of the fall harvest, and the produce from the fields and gardens weighed down many tables.

  A superstition existed in regard to Michaelmas that said blackberries should not be picked after the holiday. The day honors the Archangel Michael, who defeated Satan in the War in Heaven on this day, and it was claimed that when Satan fell from grace, he landed on a blackberry bush, cursing it and bringing ill luck on anyone who picked the berries after this day.