Fr. Tom Pomeroy
Holy Family Parish - Brillion, WI

Michaelmas Traditions

When I was Confirmed, I chose the name Michael as my confirmation name. The ‘St. Michael Prayer’ was important to me, and I thought his mission to protect us from satan was inspiring. 12 years ago I began to research St. Michael and all of the traditions associated with this great saint. I discovered the ancient tradition of the “Michaelmas Meal.”  Currently, we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels on September 29th, but that is a recent development. Traditionally, it was the Feast of St. Michael, and it was known as Michaelmas. Let me explain.

Michaelmas was celebrated in autumn as the days were getting shorter and everything was getting darker. This was why St. Michael was so important, darkness was associated with the forces of evil, and it was St. Michael who defeats the forces of darkness. It was the time to invoke this great saint. What is the best way to celebrate a great saint: You go to Mass, and then have a great feast. It was traditional to invite family, neighbors, and friends to a meal. The customary dish was a roast goose and blackberries. If you could not get a goose, then other birds would work.

I read about this tradition and set out on my task: I would have a Michaelmas meal. It was a very long story, but I eventually got a goose. I had never cooked a goose before, so I treated it as an oddly shaped Turkey. I gathered my friends and neighbors and began to cook. People were confused. “Why is my priest inviting us to the rectory? Why is he so excited about roast goose”. I can still remember standing at the head of the table saying grace and then leading the St. Michael prayer. We began to eat, to talk, to celebrate. It was a wonderful evening. Sitting around a table for a couple of hours talking, and sharing is a great way to spend an evening. With that meal, I began celebrating this ancient tradition of the Michaelmas meal every year. I saw this as joining with all the Christians of the ages.  

As Michaelmas approaches, I encourage you to embrace this time-honored celebration of St. Michael. By gathering those you love for a special meal, you will be following the footsteps of countless Christians going back a thousand years. You can connect with a long tradition where we know that a great saint will protect us from darkness and evil. I encourage you to begin a new tradition which is very old. I wish you a happy St. Michaelmas. I hope you celebrate well.