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What is Michaelmas?


Michaelmas
Question: "What is Michaelmas?"

Answer:
Michaelmas, celebrated on September 29, is an old church feast celebrating the angels. It also functions as one of the traditional quarter days in England, which include Lady’s Day (March 25), Midsummer (June 24), and Christmas (December 25). These days, placed near equinoxes and solstices, marked when leases began, land was exchanged, debts were paid, or servants were hired. Some also call Michaelmas the “Feast of Michael and All Angels”; it’s also known as “Goose Day” because the traditional meal on Michaelmas in England is roast goose, which supposedly brings luck against poverty in the coming year.

In the Bible, Michael is one of the chief angels of God (Daniel 10:13). In Revelation 12, Michael leads the holy angels in a battle against Satan, with the result that the devil “was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (verse 9). The angel’s association with spiritual warfare and the placement of Michaelmas at the beginning of the colder, darker months—when the powers of evil were believed to be stronger—make the feast of Michaelmas a plea for protection against evil.

The first recorded mention of the feast of Michaelmas was at the Council of Maintz in AD 813, but the veneration of the archangel Michael began in the Eastern church as early as the fourth century and spread to the Western church over the next hundred years. The celebration of Michael became a major feast day as the Roman Catholic Church came into more power. As time passed, most of the celebrations became traditional rather than sanctioned or required. Along the way, the observance of Michaelmas took on various folk traditions and superstitions drawn from the regions where it was celebrated.

The question arises whether or not Christians should observe Michaelmas. Never in Scripture are we told to focus on angelic beings or honor them. The celebration of Michaelmas runs the risk of placing angels in a position equal to God, praising Michael and the other angels and praying to them to continue their protection. Not everyone who observes Michaelmas prays to Michael, but some do, and that is dangerous ground. We are not to worship angels (Matthew 4:10). In fact, an angel explicitly tells John not to worship him in Revelation 22:8–9 because “I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” We are not to pray to angels. God alone is to receive our prayers (Matthew 6:9; John 16:23).

Christians are free to fellowship, thank God for His protection, and enjoy a meal, such as a goose, with other believers. If the celebration happens to be on September 29, and there is no superstition involved, and no veneration of or prayers to Michael the archangel, then “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival” (Colossians 2:16).

Recommended Resource: The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel

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