As we finish up the Autumn Ember Days, we turn our attention to Michaelmas. When we started this site, I wrote a little post musing on the question “Why the Church Year? and reflected,
The church year means that we don’t accidentally exclude a truth or event that is important for the life of our souls. I remember my first Michaelmas, realizing that I didn’t remember the last time I had thought about angels. My imagination needed Michaelmas to remind me that the cosmic realms are densely populated, not empty, with beings who serve the Lord and us.
Ever since I first experienced Michaelmas, I’ve connected it with the wisdom of the church year. I’m grateful to remember the reality of angels — intentionally weeding out what is kitschy and cutesy in my imagination. And, I hope that celebrating the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels with my children helps them to associate the angelic realm with all that is glorious, noble, and courageous. Here is what we’ll be doing:
A few years back, when we started this site, we got an email from Phil James with a booklet he had written for his grandchildren with his family’s Michaelmas traditions. Last year, my kids were old enough to really start to understand the daily meditations leading up to Michaelmas. It’s really fantastic and I can’t recommend it too highly. Here is an example from one of the daily reflections:
“There is a great war between good and evil. There are people and angels on the side of God, and there are people and angels on the side of evil. Everything we do is part of this war. Everything we do either points towards the life of heaven or the death of hell. Do you know how to tell the difference between the two sides?
One side looks at creation-especially at other people- and says ‘I am here for you.’ The other looks at creation- especially other people- and declares ‘You are here for me.’
Do you know which one is the motto of God’s army and which one is the cry of Satan’s army? It’s easy. Which one looks like our God on the cross? Did his actions say- I am here for your good or You are here for me?”
Also, whenever I think of Michaelmas and why we should celebrate it with our families, I remember this comment:
“We don’t have to teach our children that the world is really (really) enchanted, personal and meaningful. We simply need to preserve what they know to be true. . . In our society Mom and Dad purposefully setting aside an evening to affirm their own belief in angels is about as odd as it gets. Hard to think of a better endorsement than that.”
Dragons and Angels and Demons, Oh My!
In addition to reading through the booklet, we’ll also bring out a perennial favorite, St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
Last year, we tried out a way of “slaying the dragon” that was a big hit in our family. While Bley and her family bake a dragon and slay him (see her post Dragonbread for Michaelmas), I decided to take the slacker route and buy a dragon pinata (this is the one I am getting this year). My kids woke up in the morning to the dragon hanging in our doorway. We slayed (slew?) him and then we processed around the house with the decapitated pinata, singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It made quite the impression.
I also bought some cookie cutters in the shape of a shield, a sword, and a dragon that we used to make pancakes. Maybe this year, I will also incorporate a dinner of “dragon’s tongue” (i.e. pork loin). However, since it’s on Sunday, it’s also going to be a big day with our church (i.e. our Episcopal visit and annual Michaelmas bonfire), so simple will be key.
What Will You For Michaelmas This Year?
I have a great guest blogpost to share to with you next week. Here were also a few thoughts from some of our readers (thank you!):
From Diana Cunningham:
About four years ago I was desperate to come up with a fun idea for celebrating Michaelmas with the students at Lindisfarne Hall. I did come up with an idea, and now it is a much-looked-forward-to tradition at our school: We “slay” a devil’s food cake, and then eat it with our own swords (plastic knives).
And I loved the simplicity and coziness of this comment from a reader on Instagram:
“We have a homey dinner of roast chicken, root vegetables, bread, whatever we harvest from our garden. We invite family, read something about the traditions of Michaelmas, and say the St Michael’s prayer.”
What about you? Do you have any recommendations for any children’s books about angels that are theologically accurate and beautiful? How will you celebrate? Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!