Mikaeli Day September 29 was in older times when the winter half of the year begun. For long times that day was a leave day, a day when the employment year of domestic servants, maids and farm hands began and finished.|
That day in the northern parts of our country the cattle which had been at the mountain pastures in the forests for summer was brought back to the farm villages in the valleys. That pace often took place as a festival with decorated cows and the lasses blowing their birch bark horns. The farmers hands and other village boys enjoyed the return of the lasses, they had been away all summer. Celebration and dancing belonged to the traditions.
The week after Michaelmas was free in the gap between the employment years. In many places there was fairs that week. The youth had got their yearly wages and often enjoyed to celebrate the free week.
There is much superstition around this festival. The night after Mikaeli Day is filled by magic forces as usual around the great festivals. You had to be totally quiet in the evening when taking the animals in for the night. You should not say anything to those you met and even the jingle of the bell-cow had to be quiet. It you managed that you had made a safeguard against witchcraft during the coming winter.
Unmarried men could sit up for wake at a well during this night. They may see their future wife. The young girls should be observing their dreams - to see their future husband. But if she had a dream that she fell into water probably she has got into trouble and is having a baby before next Mikaeli Day.
Spooks and ghosts were out this night to visit their still living relatives. And in some places they say that there are witches around just as in the night after Maundy Thursday..
But who is St Michael? He is one of the three archangels. His task is to guard Paradise against evil forces and witchcraft. His greatest feat is that he has beaten the Dragon, (Lucifer, Satan) and thrown him out of Paradise down into the nether regions. Michael is no mild being but a fighting angel.
Why is just September 29 his day? There is a legend that he revealed himself to some men in an underground cave at a mountain in Apulia at that date in the fifth century. His name was already bound to this date when Christian faith was introduced in our country. His day got bound to the old traditions used at the time of the beginning of the winter half-year. In large parts of Sweden they had harvest celebrations at this time of the year, but our country is longish and when the harvest is over in the northern parts it is long time since it was finished in the more southern parts.
Michaelmas was seen as one of the most important festivals but the meaning differed between the parts of our country. In the north is was the day when the harvest should be finished, but in the south the harvest was ready long time ago. But it was time to bring the cattle in from the grazing fields and have them indoors during the winter, so the date September 29 had a special meaning even in the south. Now winter was at hand. You were allowed to use light indoors. Time for great feasting!
Michaelmas was a feast with lots of traditional food. They had feast of the products of the harvest, the slaughter, the gardens, the forests. Pancakes, eggcheese, vegetable soups, lingonbread for instance.
Michaelmas was a special feast for young people. But how the celebrations were executed differed from place to place, from north to south. In the earlier centuries the youth especially longed for this time of the year, the free week, the fairs and what you could do during that time. September 29 was an official holiday until 1772.
Humans alway have adjusted to the circumstances, climate, nature etc. in order to survive. The forest supplied fuel and material for buiding houses. Food you found in nature - people have learnt to take charge of what is suitable for food. They have been hunters, fishermen, cattlers, farmers, gardeners to supply both people and cattle with food. It has been like that for centuries and it is still the case.
In some places in our country the old custom of having a Mikaeli Fair has begun again. To respect the life's work of our ancestors and in thankfulness remember that is to value the history and culture of our people.
In Church of Sweden nowadays our gratitude for the harvest is celebrated at the second Sunday of October, Thanksgiving Day.
Michael (hebrew for who is like God), is the most distinguished of the arch angels. Michael is mentioned in the Bible:
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. (Dan 12:1)
He is the guarding Angel of Israel and the great warrior in the final battle.
The battle of Michael with the dragon is told in Revelations 12:7. He took place in the Christian folklore. In the Christian pictures he is mostly dressed totally in white or in a coat of mail. Usually he has got wings and is in battle with a dragon. Sometimes he is painted as the angel which is weighing the human souls. In Germany he was the guarding patron of the country in the Middle Ages and the picture of him was in the national banner. The Lutheran countries kept the Catholic Day of St Michael, September 29.
Nowadays the theme of celebration at church in the ecclesiastic year is "The Angels". It is a day of the innocent children and their guardians. The angels who struggle against the evil powers. The word "Angel" is coming from Lat. "emissary", a being sent by God.
This year 2017 we in Church of Sweden celebrate St Michael and the Angels at Sunday 1 October.