29th September is the feast day of St Michael. He is said to be the protector against darkness, and so it is natural that his feast day should fall when the nights start drawing in.
According to the stories, St Michael was the archangel who threw Lucifer down from heaven. The story says that when Lucifer fell, he landed in a bramble bush and cursed it and all its fruit, and so you shouldn’t pick blackberries after Michaelmas.
Michaelmas Day used to be the last official day of the harvest until Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church. Since then we have celebrated the harvest festival separately.
Michaelmas Day was also known as Goose Day because of the tradition of eating goose on this day. The reason why is unclear, but it is possibly because it was one of the Quarter days when the rent fell due. Tenants who needed extra time to find the rent money may have given their landlord a goose as a present when asking for a little leeway.
Goose Fairs, such as the famous one which still takes place in Nottingham, sprung up around the country on or near this day.
Related posts: Autumn Equinox
In many Western countries, Friday the 13th is believed to be a day of bad luck.
There are many reasons why Friday is considered to be unlucky. For example it is assumed to be the day that Jesus Christ was crucified, it is thought to be the day that the flood in the time of Noah started, and it is taken to be the day that the snake tempted Eve in the garden of Eden. For many people it is also the day before the Sabbath and so it was considered a day when witches would come out.
There are also stories to explain why 13 is considered to be an unlucky number. One of these is that there were 13 people, Jesus and his 12 disciples, at the Last Supper. Another suggestion is from Norse mythology: there was a banquet of 12 gods and Loki the god of trickery and mischief gatecrashed, making 13 guests. While he was there he tricked the blind god Höd into killing Baldur the god of joy, who was a great favourite amongst the gods.
Nobody knows for sure how these two unlucky times, Friday and 13th, became combined to make Friday 13th a particularly unlucky day, but there is no record of this day being considered especially unlucky before the 19th century.
Nevertheless this day is considered so unlucky that some people have a natural fear of it and there is even a word meaning fear of Friday the 13th – paraskevidekatriaphobia! People who suffer from this are often too scared to leave the house on this day. This week we have the only Friday 13th of 2016, so if you believe that Friday the 13th is unluckier than other days perhaps on Friday you would be better to stay at home and make sure you don’t break any mirrors!
Related post: Tuesday 13th and Friday 17th
If you live in Spain or Greece you’re probably being extra careful today. Tuesday 13th – that unlucky day when things are bound to go wrong…
Tuesday? Not Friday? No. Although for UK, USA and most other countries in the western hemisphere Friday 13th is considered the unluckiest day in the world, people in Greece and Spanish-speaking countries people fear Tuesdays.
The reason is not known for sure, but it has been suggested that it has something to do with the fact that Tuesday is named after the god of war (martes in Spanish after Mars and ἡμέρα Ἄρεως (hemera Areos) in Ancient Greek after Aries) and so trouble was expected on this day.
Another suggestion put forward is that the day is considered unlucky because Constantinople fell on a Tuesday (Tuesday May 29th 1453), causing many Greeks to flee their homes.
At least we all agree that it’s the number 13 that’s unlucky though, don’t we? Err…..no! In Italy it’s the number 17 that is considered unlucky. The reason is a bit convoluted, but bear with me…
- In Roman numerals 17 is written as XVII
- If you rearrange these four characters you get VIXI
- VIXI means “I have lived” in Latin, and it is found on many graves in Italy
During the middle ages, uneducated people found it difficult to distinguish between XVII and VIXI and so the number 17 came to be associated with death.
Here endeth the culture lesson for today!
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Related post: How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?