Michaelmas

Hiring, firing and pack rag days

Today is the feast of St Michael the Archangel.  It is one of the four Quarter Days, important times in legal and economic matters from at least medieval times to the late C19th.  Today was a day for the payment of rents and the beginning or ending of hiring engagements.  As these contracts came to an end, many local families were busy packing their belongings and moving home on this day, and it became known as ‘Pack Rag Day’.  Also, local courts were often held on this day.

Michaelmas Roast Goose

It was also a day for feasting, traditionally on goose.  The goose had been fattened on the stubble fields.  Sometimes, these geese were presented by the tenant farmers to their landlords.  It was said that ‘if you eat goose on Michaelmas Day you will never lack money all year.

Blackberries

Blackberries were bad, or even poisonous, after this date.  The exact date varies from Michaelmas to the 10th or 11th October, depending on the area.  The latter dates equate to the 29th September before the change in calendar in 1752.

The reason for the blackberries’ sudden decline was that the Devil interfered with them in some way on this date – putting his foot on them, wiping his tail or club on them, spitting on them, urinating or defecating upon them.

Election of the Lord Mayor of London

The Lord Mayor of London is the head of the Corporation of London, the authority that governs the City of London.  This is not to be confused with the Mayor of London, a post created in 2000 for the head of the Greater London Authority.  The Lord Mayor of London is a position that dates from around the year 1192.

The Lord Mayor is elected on 29 September, presents himself to the Lord Chancellor at the House of Lords in October for royal approval, and finally takes office on the second Friday in November.

The Lord Mayor is still an extremely important person in the nation, and in many situations is second only in precedence to the monarch.  As well as all the ceremonial duties, the Lord Mayor chairs the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council and serves as Admiral of the Port of London, Chief Magistrate of the City and Chancellor of the City University.

  1. Steve Roud – The English Year
  2. Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud – A Dictionary of English Folklore

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