Michaelmas is September 29th. It honors the day when Michael the Archangel threw Lucifer out of heaven. Tradition has it that Lucifer fell into a blackberry bush and when he did, he cursed it and spit on it. For this reason, it’s tradition not to eat blackberries after Michaelmas, because they will taste sour. Michael is a symbol of good triumphing over evil, courage over cowardice. Michaelmas helps us to call on our own bravery to prepare our inner selves for the long, dark and cold winter months to come
Here’s some ideas on how to celebrate. Any one of these ideas can make the day special, so no need to try to do it all!
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1. Make Dragon Bread
Here’s one of my recipes for dragon bread.
Pumpkin Dragon Bread
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
½ cup warm water
1 cup of pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp oil or melted butter
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup milk, room temperature
3 cups of whole wheat flour
3 cups of bread flour
an assortment of dried fruit and nuts (dried cranberries, raisins, almond slivers, sunflower seeds)
In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Let it sit for 10 minutes in a warm spot. It will turn frothy and smell yeasty.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, oil, salt and spices. Add the yeast mixture and the milk. Then add the flour a cup at a time. After each cup, stir until just combined. You could also do this in a stand mixer.
Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and turn out the dough. Rub some flour on your hands and start to knead the dough. Knead it for 10 minutes. You can take this time to sing a bread song, tell a Michaelmas tale or say a blessing.
Grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Move bowl to a warm spot and allow it to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Push down the dough and remove it from the bowl. Place on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Now for the fun part, shaping it into a large dragon or 2 small dragons! After you get the dragon formed, you can use scissors to snip in spikes on his back. You can use dried cranberries or raisins for the eyes and almond slivers for claws and teeth. Use a knife to create nostril slits and a smile.
Bake for 25- 40 minutes or until golden brown. The underside of the bread should sound hollow when tapped.
Let it cool and then devour!
2. Make Michaelmas Pie
It is an old Irish custom to bake a Michaelmas Pie and hide a ring in it. it was said that the one who found the ring would soon get married.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup solid non hydrogenated vegetable shortening, chilled
5 Tbsp ice water
6 cups blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp of lemon zest
1 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar,, cinnamon and salt. Add the shortening and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water and stir with a fork until the dough is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Divide in half; flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Working on a floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie plate. Roll out the remaining dough to an 11-inch round.
In a large bowl, toss the blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix and coarsely mash. Let stand 20 minutes and then scrape into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the top with the butter cubes.
Brush the overhanging pastry with water and carefully set the top crust over the berry filling. Press the edges of the dough together and trim the overhang to 1 inch. Fold the edge under itself and crimp decoratively. Cut 4 slits in the top crust.
Bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It will be done when the bottom crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If necessary, cover the edge with foil for the last few minutes of baking.
Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.
3. Read dragon themed books.
The Festival of Stones by Reg Down (covers Martinmas, too)
4. Make dragon themed crafts.
The pattern for this little cutie is available in my digital shop, here.
5. Dye a playsilk cape with turmeric, marigolds or goldenrod.
6. Make swords and shields out of cardboard.
7. Dress up as a dragon or St. Michael.
8. Have a dragon themed poetry tea time.
Here’s some traditional Michaelmas poems.
In autumn St. Michael with sword and with shield
Passes over meadow and orchard and field
He’s on the path to battle ‘gainst darkness and strife-
He is the heavenly warrior protector of life.
The harvest let us gather with Michael’s aid;
The light he sheddeth fails not, nor does it fade,
And when the corn is cut and the meadows are bare
We’ll don St. Michael’s armor and onward we’ll fare.
We are St. Michael’s warriors with strong heart and mind,
We forge our way through darkness St. Michael to find.
And there he stands in glory; St. Michael we pray,
Lead us into battle and show us the way.
Brave and true I will be
Each good deed sets me free.
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right,
I will conquer the wrong.
9. Have a harvest fest dinner or a taco party because dragons love tacos.
10. Around the fire, write down the fears you want to slay. You can share them or burn them.
Dragons on Michaelmas represent things in our lives that overwhelm us or cause us fear. Michaelmas is a time to bring these dragons to light and make steps to “slay” them. The very definition of bravery is to feel afraid but to to do it anyway. I hope this Michaelmas you remember that we are all works in progress and as a community we can slay any dragon.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful and eventful Michaelmas.
P.S. I would love to hear in the comments if you found this post helpful!