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Today we celebrate Michaelmas

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National Day 29th September – Michaelmas

Many of you occupying commercial premises on leases might be familiar with the quarter days of 25th March, 24th June, 29th September and 25th December – particularly in older leases.

These are the days that quarterly rent is due. The tradition dates back to Medieval times and its religious festivals. Life then revolved very much around the church and four Christian festivals were scheduled roughly around the equinoxes and solstices which of course pre-dated the Christian era.

  • The Feast of the Annunciation – or Lady Day on March 25 mirrors the Spring Equinox
  • The Feast of St John the Baptist – Midsummer Day June 24th coincides with the Summer Solstice
  • The Feast of St Michael and All Angels – Michaelmas Day takes place on September 29th, as does the Autumn Equinox
  • The Feast of the Nativity, Christmas of course, on December 25th is in line with the Winter Solstice

These quarter days were more than just religious. School terms would begin on these feast days, Lady Day started a new tax year and also the first day of the rent year. All rents and debts were expected to be settled on these four key festivals to begin the next quarter with a clean sheet.Many landlords still use the traditional quarter days but it is becoming more common now to use the first day of the months of January, April, July and October as an alternative. Except if you're in Scotland, when the key dates are Candlemas, Whitsunday, Lammas and Martinmas – and that's a whole different story!

And what about those daisies?

Originally known as starwort until the mid 18th century, it was renamed because its flowering usually coincided with the feast day of St Michael and All Angels on 29th September.  
Mine were a tad early.

But more about that Saint

It is the feast of St Michael the Archangel, patron saint of all things sea and ships and sailors, and of horses and riders. Michael was the one credited with casting the devil out of Heaven and is a character that appears in various guises in many religious teachings. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses – all have their theories on who he was – Jesus, Adam, a healer, the angel of death; which is not as bad as it sounds. 

He apparently descends at the hour of death and gives Christian souls the opportunity to repent their sins thus preventing them from falling into the devil's clutches. I am assuming it isn't exclusively Christian souls, but that, friends of all faiths, was the teaching at Holy Rosary RC school when I was about ten. In fact, it might even have been exclusively Catholic souls! Controversial.

St Michael's many roles include the patron saint-hood of many towns and cities across the world, from St Michael's Mount in Cornwall where centuries old fishermen's tales tell of seafarers being guided to safety by St Michael instead of being lured by mermaids onto the rocks; to Arkhangelsk on the banks of the Dvina – a seaport of medieval Russia – whose coat of arms features Michael defeating the devil. Legend has it that the victory took place near the city and that Michael continues to stand watch in case of the devil's return.

St Michael is the guardian of Israel, the patron saint of Normandy and Kyiv and, closer to home, Linlithgow whose town motto is 'St Michael is kind to strangers'. Now isn't that nice.

Shall we all be especially kind to a stranger today?

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