November Days of the Month

1st – Samhain – a pagan festival marking the transition between summer and winter.

This is also All Saints Day and All Hallows Day

All Saints brings the second summer,
All Saints summer lasts three hours, three days or three weeks.

‘Hallow’ is an old word for ‘saint’. All Saints or All Hallows is a celebration of all the redeemed, both the known and the unknown, just in case some saints had slipped through the net of the year unnoticed.

On this day people remembered their departed relatives and prayed for them. Food is left out tonight in case the souls of the departed visit.

All Hallows summer starts today, a traditional spell of unseasonable warmth.

If ducks do slide at Hollantide, at Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Hollantide, at Christmas they will slide.

Up to the late nineteenth century this was Bonfire day (now 5th November – Bonfire Night).

Mummers’ plays were performed to mark the beginning of winter, as a rite to revive the life-bearing sun.

2nd – All Souls Day

It is a day on which prayers are said and masses celebrated for all those who have ever lived and died.

On this day soul cakes were made. People went from door to door singing a song in return for alms.

Souling songs were sung and it was customary to give soul cakes to all who called. These were small cakes flavoured with spices and brought luck.

Soul! Soul! for a soul cake!
I pray, good missus, a soul cake!
An apple or pear, a plum or cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.

Traditional souling song

 

You gentlemen of England, I’d have you to draw near,
For we have come a-Souling for your strong ale and beer.

 
‘I hope you will prove kind with your apples and strong beer,
And we’ll come no more a-souling until this time next year.
One for Peter, one for Paul,
One for Him as made us all.
Up with your kettles, and down with your pans,
Give us a sou’cake and we will be gone.’

Old souling song

 
3rd – St Winefrides Day

St Winefride’s Well in Holywell is the finest example of a medieval well. James II and his Queen visited in 1686 desperate for an heir, and it soon worked its magic.

Hundreds of people were said to have been cured of diseases after a dip in the special bathing pool. The water was also used for making wishes.

4th – St Cleer’s Day

He was a 6th century hermit. St Cleer, near Liskeard in Cornwall, is named after him, and his Holy Well still stands in the village.

A stick and a stake
For King George’s sake
Will you please to give us a faggot.
If you won’t give one, we’ll steal two,
The better for we and the worse for you.
Bonfire wood collecting Warwickshire rhyme

 
5th – Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night

On this day in 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested following the attempt to blow up Parliament.

November 5th was officially declared a day of national celebration. It became combined with the fire festivals already prevalent at this time of year and survives to the present day as Bonfire Night.

There are records of effigies being burnt on bonfires as early as the 1670s, although until the nineteenth century these were more likely to be of the Pope.

In the sixteenth century Mary I burnt 17 Protestant martyrs at Lewes in Sussex, an inflammatory act which continues to ignite the town in annual protest. Each November 5th they ‘burn the Pope’ and have a massive bonfire. People chant

‘A rope, a rope to hang to Pope, a piece of cheese to toast him,
A barrel of beer to drink his health, and a right good fire to roast him.’

There is a huge fancy dress torchlight parade through the streets.

‘We come a cob-a coalin; cob-a coalin,
We come a cob-a coalin for Bonfire Night.’

 
Citizens of York are not supposed to burn Guy today. He was a York-born soldier roped into the 1605 plot as a mercenary. He was ironically born a Protestant.

In addition to the well-known ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot’, apposite rhymes today include:

Rumour, rumour, pump a derry,
Prick his heart and burn his body,
And send his soul to Purgatory.

and

Gunpowder Plot shall ne’er be forgot
As long as Bella Brown makes good Tom Trot.

Tom Trot was parkin, an oaty ginger and treacle cake.

The penny for the guy custom and the making of the guy for the garden bonfire are two widespread homely traditions that have largely disappeared and numerous others have come and gone.

Some families had special food for the evening. Jacket potatoes cooked on the edge of the bonfire, toffee apples, Bonfire toffee and gingerbread and parkin to munch on as the rockets were set off.

On the first Friday in November the Bridgewater carnival takes place and holds what is claimed to be the largest illuminated carnival in the world. Crowds of 150,000 pack the town. Around 150 floats take part, decorated with thousands of light bulbs. A huge firework display ends the evening. Blazing tar barrels, firecrackers and street bonfires used to be held.

“Men, boys and urchins paraded the streets decked out in their colourful costumes. Amongst the usual mix of characters was one young man who had the impudence to mimic ‘to an alarming extent’ the latest ladies fashion – crinoline. But the young ladies of the day were able to get their own back by throwing lighted firecrackers at this display from the safety of their upstairs windows.”
Local newspaper report of 1860.

6th – St Leonard’s Day

Died c.560. Patron saint of blacksmiths, coopers, greengrocers, prisoners of war, slaves and women in labour.

St Leonard is still remembered in the place names in Bucks, Dorset, St Leonard’s Forest, and in St Leonard’s, near Hastings.

7th – St Willibrord’s Day

10th – Martinmas Eve

Was seen as a time of feasting and merrymaking based on the habit of slaughtering animals at this time for salting down to last through the winter. It was a time of indoor gathering, where tales were told and games played, in defiance of the darkening nights and deteriorating weather of the autumn season:

Now that the year grows wearisome with age
And days grow short and nights excessively long
No outdoor sports the village hinds engage
Still is the meadow romp and harvest song.
John Clare – Martinmas Eve 1830

 
Martinmas Eve is Halloween Old Style and thus a second chance to look into the future.

Take three dishes, fill one with clean water, one with dirty water and leave one empty. A person is then blindfolded and led in to feel for a dish with their left hand; if they put their hand into the clean water, their future wife (or husband) will be a maid or bachelor; if into the dirty water they will wed a widow or widower, but if into the empty dish they will never marry.

11th – Martinmas

St Martin of Tours is the patron saint of soldiers. He was a 4th century saint. He served in the army before his baptism in AD 354, which allegedly followed a miraculous vision of Christ he experienced after sharing his military cloak with a freezing beggar. He became Bishop of Tours. After he died the cloak became a sacred relic, carried into battle as a banner by various French monarchs, and stored at other times in a sanctuary known as the chopelle or capella (from the old French chape, or Latin capella, cloak) from which the English word ‘chapel’ is derived.

If Martinmas ice will bear a duck,
Then look for a winter of slush and muck.

 
Weather wise, if it is very cold today, the winter will be gentle. Martinmas is usually quite mild, the start of a short spell known as St Martin’s summer, or the November Halcyon Days.

It is the day of Martinmas,
Cups of ale should freely pass,
What through winter has begun
To push down the summer sun.
To our fire we can be take
And enjoy the crackling brake,
Never heeding winter’s face
On the day of Martinmas.

Martinmas beef doth bear good tack
When country folk do daintier lack.

11th – Remembrance Day

In 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the hostilities of World War I officially came to an end.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon, ‘For the Fallen’ (1914)

 
Armistice Day is also called Poppy Day, from the custom of wearing paper replicas of this flower. They grew in the battlefields of Flanders, their bright red symbolic of the blood that had been shed there.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The Larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
John McCrae, ‘In Flanders Fields’ (1915)

 
13th – St Brice’s Day

Brice was Bishop of Tours. He died in AD 444. He was soon accredited with saintly virtues and his cult was popular in England. The only English church dedicated to him is at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

The most well-known custom that took place on St Brice’s Day was the annual bull-running at Stamford. Every year on this day at 11 in the morning the church bells were rung to warn people off the streets, and a bull was released. After being chased through the town by people with their dogs yelling and shouting, it was pushed into the river. After it had managed to swim ashore in nearby meadows, the poor beast was finally killed and later eaten.

The last bull-running took place in 1839.

14th – St Dyfrig’s Day

He lived in the 6th century, and was said to have been the bishop who crowned King Arthur.

On this day in 1635 died Old Parr of Shropshire, who claimed to have been born in 1483 and thus to be 152 years old. He married for the first time at 80, and for the second at 120; but the excitement of a visit to Charles I court proved fatal to him. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

16th – St Margaret of Scotland’s Day

Margaret, who died in 1093, was one of the last of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, wife of King Malcolm III.

A healing well at Liberton, in Edinburgh, is named after her.

17th – Queen Elizabeth I’s Holiday

The anniversary of her accession to the throne in 1558, formerly much celebrated with bonfires and bell ringing.

‘Next came the Queen, in the sixty-sixth year of her age, as we were told, but very majestic. Her face was oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, but black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow and her teeth black. She wore false hair and that was red.’
Paul Hentzner – Travels in England, 1598.

17th – St Hilda’s Day (614-680)

She founded the Abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire. It became famous as a school. Five pupils of hers became bishops. Fifteen churches are dedicated to her.

17th – St Hugh of Avalon, also known as Hugh of Lincoln (Great Hugh) (1135-1200)

Hugh was a wise and fearless Bishop of Lincoln whose pet swan met him each time he returned to his palace. He has one church dedicated to him.

18th

The traditional time for making Christmas puddings is Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent Sunday, which is the final one in November. Each member of the family should stir the pudding and make a wish. The name Stir Up Sunday comes from the collect traditionally read on this day in church.

A children’s rhyme chanted when alms collecting echoes this:
Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot.
And when we get home we’ll eat the lot.

According to the Christian tradition, puddings should be made of 13 ingredients, one for each Apostle and one for Jesus. They should be stirred with a wooden spoon – to recall the manger – and in a sunwise direction, retracing the route of the magi. It is still customary in some households to make 13 puddings, the last one is known as the Judas Pudding and is either given to a beggar or thrown out.

19th – St Ermenburga’s Day

A Kentish princess, who founded a nunnery at Minster on the Isle of Thanet.

20th – St Edmund’s Day (841-870), Patron Saint of Sailors.

He was King of East Anglia, and murdered by the Vikings in 869 when he refused to champion the pagan cause by being tied to a tree and fired at with arrows and then beheaded. His head was hidden under a thorn bush, but when his followers sought it, the head itself was heard crying, ‘Here, here,’ and was discovered in the care of a monstrous white wolf.

He was buried at the Suffolk town which then became Bury St Edmunds. St Edmund remains popular across East Anglia and schoolchildren on this day are given a specially baked St Edmunds bun.

“Set garlic and beans at Edmund the King,
The moon in the wane thereof hangeth a thing.”

 
21st – Old Michaelmas Eve

22nd – St Cecilia’s Day

She was a 3rd century Roman Christian, and is the patron saint of musicians. She was said to have invented the organ. Cecilia was condemned for her Christianity and put to death. St Cecilia’s Church in Rome is built on the site of the bath in which she died.

So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour
The trumpet shall be heard on high
The dead shall live, the living die.
And musick shall untune the sky.

Today used to be a hatters’ holiday, being the eve of their patron saint, Clement. He was a great inventor – after a long and tiring walk, he found some wool and put this between his foot and the sandal; the combination of sweat and compaction resulted in the first felt.

22nd – Pack-Rag Day, called because servants now carried their possessions to new work places after finding new employment at the many hiring fairs held on this day – Martinmas Old Style.

Servant men, stand up for your wages
When to the hirings you do go,
For you must work all sorts of weather,
Both cold and wet and snow.
Old Shropshire Ballard

 
23rd – St Clement’s Day

St Clement was a 4th century Christian martyr, drowned by being tied to an anchor. He is patron saint of blacksmiths and lighthouse men and hatters.

St Clement brings the winter.

In former times St Clements Day was celebrated with a custom known as clementing, which involved begging for money, fruit or cakes in exchange for a song. In some parts of the UK blacksmiths celebrated their patron saint’s feast day with parades through the streets with an effigy of St Clement called Old Clem and ended with a special meal called a Clem Supper.

Later children took up cleming and sang songs in return for apples or spiced Clements cakes.

At Walsall the mayor used to throw apples and pennies at the children in the name of Clement, while at Rippon, choristers handed out apples stuck through with a sprig of box.

25th – St Catherine’s Day

Patron saint of philosophers, librarians, unmarried women, wheelwrights, millers and lace makers. 80 churches are dedicated to her. She is said to have been tortured on a wheel in AD 310, hence the Catherine wheel firework and the Catherine or Rose window.

Her well is at Abbotsbury, near Weymouth. Put one knee and your hands in three holes inside the chapel, and wish aloud for a tall, dark stranger to engulf you.

The festival of St Catherine was often held together with St Clement.

‘Cattern and Clemen be here, be here,
Some of your apples and some of your beer.’

People went catterning, and cattern cakes and pies were made and eaten. The cakes were light and airy, made from sweet dough, flavoured with caraway. The pies were shaped like a Catherine wheel, filled with mince, honey and breadcrumbs.

Rise, maidens, rise,
Bake your cattern pies.
Bake enough and bake no waste,
And let the bellmen have a taste.

 
People played games. A favourite one was leaping over a lit candle. If it went out as you leaped, farewell good luck.

Kit be nimble, Kit be quick.
Kit jumps over the candlestick.

 
St Catherine was also involved in matters of matrimony. At St Catherine’s chapel in Abbotsbury, Dorset, women used to go and say the following prayer:

A husband, St Catherine,
A handsome one, St Catherine;
A rich one, St Catherine;
A nice one, St Catherine;
And soon, St Catherine!

The Cattern Bowl

A special drink was made out of cider, cinnamon and sugar, pulped apples were then added and it was given out to friends and family.

30th – St Andrew’s Day. Patron Saint of Scotland.

When St Andrew was martyred in the 1st century AD, he opted for a X shaped (saltire) cross, as he felt unworthy of being killed in the same way as Jesus.

About 600 churches are dedicated to him.

St Andrew the King, three weeks and three days before Christmas come in.

‘Traditional saying’

 
On St Andrew’s Day the night is twice as long as day.

All over the world Scots raise the following toast today –

‘To the memory of St Andrew and Scotland yet.’

This was mischief night in Northamptonshire. Squirrel hunting was an annual event.

Elderberry wine and Tandra cake or St Andrew’s cake are eaten in England in areas of lace making such as Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire. The holiday was known as ‘Tander’.

30th – Advent

Advent means ‘coming’, of the messiah. Christians celebrate the coming of Christ during Advent – the four weeks before Christmas. Advent Sunday is the nearest Sunday to 30th November.

Some people have an Advent wreath with four candles, one to light on each Sunday.

In the north of England before the Reformation poor women made two dolls called the Advent Images (representing the Virgin and Christchild) and went around the neighbourhood singing the ancient carol, ‘The first joy that Mary had, it was the joy of one’ and people contributed a coin.

October Days of the Month

1st – St Mylors Day

Patron saint of Amesbury Abbey, Wiltshire.

It is claimed that the Norman abbey-church was founded by Guinevere, and her body is allegedly buried under the building.

October is the main month for apple-picking and cider-making.

The old sorts of apple are the most valuable for cider, such as the Hagloe Crab, Golden-Pippin, Woodcock, Moyle, Gennet Moyle, Fox-Whelp, Dymock-Red, Yellow Musks, and the Ten Commandments.

2nd

The first Thursday in October is the start of the Nottingham Goose Fair. At its height some 20,000 birds were driven to the town. Today it is a large three day funfair.

The fair featured a Pie Powder Court, dispensing justice for on-the-spot offenders. The name comes from the French pied-poudre – dust-feet – referring to the state of the many travellers who arrived.

4th – St Francis’ Day 1182-1226

This is the feast day of St Francis of Assissi, founder of the Franciscan Order of Mendicant Friars (also known as the Grey Friars).

This is also the day when swallows prepare to migrate.

5th – St Faith’s Eve

The Faith Cake is the symbol of St Faith. Her feast day is celebrated on the 6th October, and a Faith Cake baked on St Faith’s Eve is believed to bring a vision of a future husband.

The first Monday in October is the date of the Wibsey Horse Fair, Yorkshire.

“I’m Collier Jack, through Wibsey Slack, I’m allus praad to tell
That few fairs in old England can Wibsey Slack excel;
There’s plenty raam for cattle, and other sports we share,
I’m allus praad t’go wi my mate to t’seets at Wibsey Fair.”

6th – St Faith’s Day

She was an early Christian, martyred with her sisters, Hope and Charity. Because she was said to have been grilled over a fire, she is the patron saint of cakes.

‘Oh good St Faith, be kind tonight,
And bring to me my heart’s delight;
Let me my future husband view
And be my visions chaste and true.’

7th – St Osyth’s Day 7c

Osyth was an East Saxon Queen who gave her name to the Essex village where her nunnery stands. Her emblems are two keys and three loaves. Four churches are dedicated to her.

Tonight, by invoking St Osyth, hearth and home can be kept free of calamity in the year ahead. Last thing before bed, rake the ashes in the grate and mark them with a cross. After saying a prayer to the saint to protect the house from fire, water and all other calamities, you can drift into a peaceful and protected sleep.

8th – St Keynes’ Day

Son of 6th century King Brychan of Wales. Keynsham, in Avon, is named after her.

At St Keynes’ Well, at St Keyne in Cornwall, according to legend, whichever of a newly married couple drinks the water first will rule the roost.

‘I hastened as soon as the wedding was o’er
And left my good wife in the porch,
But i’faith she had been wiser than I
For she took a bottle to church.’
Robert Southey

9th – St Denis’ Day (or Denys, Dionysius)

Patron saint of France.

A day to loose pigs to fatten on fallen beech-mast and acorns.

The second Wednesday in the month is Tavistock Goosey Fair, in Devon.

The pubs of Tavistock habitually removed their doors for the fair, enabling barmen to eject the many drunks with greater ease and less damage.

‘And it’s oh, and where you be a-gwain, and
What be a-doin’ of there?
Aive down your prong and stap along to
Tavistock Goosey Fair.’

‘Tis just a month come Friday next, Bill Champerdown and me,
Us traipsed across old Darty Moor, the Goosey Fair to see.
Us made ourselves quite fitting, us greased and oiled our hair,
Then off we goes in our Sunday clothes, behind old Bill’s grey mare.’

10th – Old Michaelmas Day

Michaelmas Spring, a spell of fine weather, was thought to come around October 10th, on Old Michaelmas Day.

Devil’s Blackberry Day is on October 10th. It is no longer safe to pick blackberries as by now the Devil will have spat on them.

This day is also St Paulinus’ Day, d 644. First Bishop of York. Five English churches are dedicated to him.

11th – St Canice’s Day

St Canice lived in the 6th century and spent much of his time on the remote islands of Scotland.

It was on this day in 1216 that King John lost his Crown and jewels whilst crossing the Wash.

Sherborne’s Michaelmas Fair is held on the Monday after October 10th. An 1826 list of its delights includes ‘the learned pig, the giantess and dwarf, the menagerie of wild beasts . . . Mr Merry Andrew cracking his jokes . . . Rebecca Swain with her black and red cock . . . pricking in the Garter . . . raffling for gingerbread . . . the Sheffield hardwareman sporting a worn out wig and a large pair of spectacles. Sounds like yet another festival we ought to bring back.

12th – St Wilfred’s Day (634 – 709)

He was a Bishop of York and is a popular saint with 48 dedications. St Wilfred’s Chair – the bishop’s throne – at Hexham was once the sanctuary seat.

A west wind today points to a mild winter.

13th – St Edward the Confessor’s Day (1003 – 1066)

Edward was King of England, and after his death he became patron saint of England until supplanted by St George in the 15th century. Edward’s greatest work was the building of Westminster Abbey.

14th – The Battle of Hastings was fought on this day in 1066.

‘The future Conqueror of England was the last to land, and as he placed his foot on shore, he made a false step, and fell on his face. A murmur of consternation ran through the troops at this incident as a bad omen, but with great presence of mind William sprang immediately up, and shewing his troops his hand filled with English sand, exclaimed: “What now? What astonishes you? I have taken seisin of this land with my hands, and by the splendour of God, as far as it extends it is mine – it is yours!’

16th

If there is no rain today, it will be a dry spring next year.

17th – St Luke’s Eve

Sleep with a crooked sixpence and a sprig of Rosemary under your pillow tonight and you will dream of your future love.

St Audrey’s Day

Died 679.

Daughter of a Christian prince, she founded the monastery at Ely and became its first abbess. Twelve churches are dedicated to her.

A fair was always held at St Audrey’s Chapel in Ely on this day. Various merchandise was offered for sale. Silk ribbons, and lace that became known as St Audrey’s laces, shortened to ‘tawdry laces’.

It was cheap imitations of these ornaments that gave rise to the use of the word ‘tawdry’ to describe anything that is showy but without quality, taste or worth.

18th – St Luke’s Day. 1st century.

He is an important saint in the church’s calendar. Patron saint of doctors and artists.

Today traditionally heralds a spell of warm weather, St Luke’s Little Summer. Beloved Luke: the physician was the disciple, helper and friend of St Paul (formerly Saul, a very dubious person and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, who probably deceived poor St Luke – and everyone else).

Up to St Luke’s Day put your hands where you like, after it keep them in your pocket.

Today was a lucky day to choose a husband.

‘St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true love see.’
Repeat this three times before going to bed.

During the night your future husband will appear. If he will prove a loving partner he will smile at you, but if after marriage he will forsake thy bed to wander after strange women, then he will be rude and uncivil with thee.

19th – St Frideswide (d 735)

A princess who became a nun and founded a nunnery on the site of Christ Church, Oxford. She is patron of the city and university. Her holy well at Osney is visited by many people each year. Henry VIII visited the well with Catherine of Aragon.

20th

As the days grow darker and Hallowe’en approaches, beware of witches.

21st – St Ursula’s Day

Patron saint of girls’ schools, Princess Ursula was a devout 4th century Christian. A stained glass window at Trinity Church in York depicts her image.

This day is also St John of Bridlington’s Day – a miracle worker who died in 1329.

Trafalgar Day

Celebrating the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when the British fleet under Admiral Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleets in the decisive battle of the Napoleonic Wars.

‘England expects that every man will do his duty.’
Signal sent from Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory before the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805.

23rd

The Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire was fought today in 1642, the first major conflict of the Civil War.

24th

Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII died on this day in 1537, twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI.

25th – St Crispin and Crispinian’s Day

St Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers. He and his brother, Crispinian, were French. They are the patron saints of cobblers because they were both pricked to death by cobblers’ awls.

‘The twenty fifth of October
Cursed be the cobbler who goes to bed sober.’

‘Now shoe makers will have a Frisken
All in honour of St Crispin.’

St Crispin’s Day itself gained popularity as a holiday after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where his name was evoked to rally the English to victory.

“This day is called the Feast of St Crispian.
He that outlives this day and came safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian!’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s Day.'”
Act IV, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Henry V

26th – King Alfred the Great died on this day in AD 899.

Although he was never canonized, the English church celebrates his feast day.

28th – St Simon and St Jude’s Day 1st century

A joint saints’ day for the saints who worked as a team. Simon and Jude were 1st century Apostles. They were killed in Persia. In art, Jude is represented holding a boat and Simon clutching a fish.

Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and Simon is patron saint of wood cutters.

The weather takes a turn for the worse on St Simon and St Jude’s Day. It marks the traditional last gasp of the tail end of summer, and the onset of wet and windy winter.

On St Jude’s Day
The oxen play.

On St Simon’s Day we throw the sickle away. It’s a day when heavy rain is always forecast.

To catch a glimpse of a future lover, pare an apple without breaking the skin, throw the skin over your left shoulder, and when it lands it will form the initial of the lover’s name. The parer must recite this rhyme and turn three times:

‘St Simon and St Jude, on you I intrude
By this paring I hold to discover,
Without any delay, please tell me this day
The first letter of him my true lover.’

However, the success of this process may be drawn into question by the fact that St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes!

Also on the 28th, in Bedford and the surrounding area, baked Wardens were sold on the streets –

‘Smoking hot, piping hot,
Who knows what I have got?
Hot baked Wardens,
All hot! All hot! All hot!’

Wardens are Warden pears, cooked in red wine with cinnamon and clover.

29th – Sir Walter Raleigh beheaded on this day in 1618.

He observed calmly, ‘I have a long journey to go, therefore must take leave!’

30th – Punkie Night

Rather similar to Hallowe’en, a punkie is a lantern made from a mangold wurzel.

These were hollowed out and lit with candles, then suspended on string and carried around the streets by local children begging for candles. As they parade along, they sing –

It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Give us a candle, give us a light.
If you don’t you’ll get a fright (or if you haven’t a candle a penny’s all right);
It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Adam and Eve would never believe it’s
Punkie Night tonight.

31st – Hallowe’en

See separate post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Days of the Month

1st – Lammastide
Lammas means ‘loaf mass’. It was the day when harvesting officially got underway. Loaves made with the first of the year’s ripened corn were taken to the church for a blessing.

This was one of the four great pagan festivals of Britain, the others being on 1st November, 1st February and 1st May.

After Lammas, corn ripens as much by night as by day because of the heavy night dews.

Hay meadows were re-opened for common grazing, marked by country fairs (especially sheep fairs) and other festivities.

1st August is also the Feast of St Peter in Chains, one of the feast days dedicated to St Peter. He shares his main feast day with St Paul on 29th June, but the feast on 1st August is called Peter Ad Vincula, or ‘Peter in Chains’, and commemorates the incident in the Acts of the Apostles when an angel visited him in prison ‘and his chains fell off from his hands’.

1st – St Ethelwold’s Day 905-984. A Glastonbury monk who became Bishop of Winchester.

2nd – William II of England, William Rufus, died whilst out hunting in the New Forest with friends. He was fatally shot. Blame was pinned on a deflected arrow, but he was more probably killed by order of his brother and successor, Henry I. His body was taken to Winchester in a cart and buried in the cathedral there.

The Rufus Stone in the New Forest marks the supposed site of William’s death. The original oak tree that the arrow glanced off was destroyed by souvenir hunters and vandals.

Rufus is said to have given Newcastle-upon-Tyne its name, with his proverbial utterance, “If we cannot win the old castle we must build a new castle!”

5th – Old St James’s Day

This day is also St Oswald’s Day.

St Oswald (604-642) was King of Northumbria. Sixty seven churches are dedicated to him, many near a well or spring. He was slain by the heathen Penda at Oswestry,(‘St Oswald’s Tree’).

The dust and earth at the place where he was killed gained a reputation for bringing about great cures.

His remains were taken to Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire, but the monks did not wish to have the corpse of an enemy king in their Abbey, so his remains were dumped in a field, but bright lights shone up from the site and the monks realised they had erred, and brought in the remains, vowing never to close their doors again.

Since then it has been proverbial in Lincolnshire to say of a person who habitually leaves doors open, “You must have been born in Bardney”.

Oyster Day

This is the start of the oyster season:

Greengrocers rise at dawn of sun,
August the fifth – come haste away
To Billingsgate, the thousands run,
Tis Oyster Day! Tis Oyster Day!

Whoever eats an oyster today will never want for money all the year.

6th

Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Show near Whitby, North Yorkshire, is held on the first Tuesday of August. It is the oldest Gooseberry Show in the country, one of only nine still surviving.

Red, yellow, white, and the usual green colour gooseberries compete, the prize going to the heaviest fruit – two ounces is usually a winning weight, about the size of a golf ball.

7th

Henry Tudor, later Henry VII 1457-1509, landed at Milford Haven in Wales, in 1485.

8th – St Lides Day, an eleventh century hermit who lived on the Isles of Scilly.

On this day in 1588 Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) reviewed her troops on the shores of the Thames at Tilbury, prior to the final naval engagement with the Spanish Armada, and gave her famous speech: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.”

10th – St Laurence’s Day

St Laurence was broiled in a gridiron in the 3rd century. His famous last words were –

“This side is toasted, so turn me, tyrant, eat and see whether raw or roasted I make the better meat.”

He is the patron saint of cooks, bakers and confectioners.

If it rains on St Laurence it is rather late
– But still in time.

Very hot weather now presages a hard winter.

11th – St Claire’s Day, 1194-1253

In the middle ages she was revered for her contemplative life. She is the patron saint of television.

11th – Old Lammas Eve

Old Lammas was when some of the biggest sheep fairs were held.

The last of the unhealthy ‘Dog Days’ which began on July 3rd.

12th

This is the glorious twelfth, the first day of the grouse shooting season.

13th – St Hippolytus’ Day
(3rd century)

St Ippollitts in Hertfordshire is named after him.

13th – Feast of St Cassian, a severe Christian schoolmaster disliked by his pagan pupils, who stabbed him to death with iron pen-nibs. He is the patron saint of schoolteachers.

15th – The Feast of the Assumption – or death and bodily entrance into heaven of the Virgin Mary (according to the New Testament).

If the sun shines today it is a good token, especially for wind.

16th August – St Roch’s Day (14th century)

A selfless fourteenth century plague doctor, he is invoked against all infectious diseases.

18th – St Helen’s Day

Born around AD250 at Prepanum in Asia Minor, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome.

Some historians claim she was a British princess and daughter of Old King Cole of Colchester, of merry old soul fame. She is associated with many ancient wells. Her emblem is a cross.

St Helen’s well at Rushton Spencer, Congleton is said to dry up in times of calamity. It happened in the Civil War and again, when Charles I lost his head. It also happened during a corn famine in 1670, when Edward VII died in 1910, and again during the First World War.

She is invoked against fire, tempest and lightning.

20th – St Philibert’s Day

Seventh century St Philibert gave his name to the Filbert nut, said to ripen around the saint’s feast day.

21st

On this day in 1702 Admiral John Benbow was in pursuit of French ships in the West Indies. The battle was not going well and despite being mortally wounded he fought on. ‘Fight-to-his-own-death’ Benbow was seen to typify British pluck and became a folk hero.

Brave Benbow lost his legs
And all on his stumps he begs,
‘Fight on my English lads,
‘Tis our lot.’

A monument to him stands in St Mary’s church in Shrewsbury, and there are still a good number of pubs up and down the country named after him.

22nd

On this day in 1485 King Richard III, the last truly English king of England, and the last to be killed in battle, was slain and cruelly murdered at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry Tudor, cowering behind his henchmen (one of whom had just been slain by the valliant Richard) became Henry VII. The battle marked the end of the Wars of the Roses, 30 years of civil war in England between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, both descended from King Edward III and both claiming the Crown.

Henry became the first Tudor monarch of England.

24th – St Bartholomew’s Day

St Bartlemy’s mantle wipes dry
All the tears St Swithin can cry.

If Bartolomew’s Day be fair and clear,
Then a prosperous autumn comes that year.

‘At St Bartholomew’s there comes cold dew’.

St Bartholomew was one of Christ’s apostles who is said to have been flayed alive and then beheaded. His emblem is a butcher’s knife, and he is the patron saint of tanners, leather workers, and bee keepers.

He is also associated with the famous hospital in Smithfield, London, generally known as Bart’s. In its heyday, Bartholomew’s fair was one of the four great fairs of England. In 1133 Smithfields first St Bartholomew’s fair took place in the grounds of the priory. It ran until 1855. It was famous for its puppet plays and religious mystery plays. In addition there were music and dance shows, acrobats, tightrope walkers, gingerbread sellers, a menagerie of animals, ballad singers, bearded ladies, fat men, giants, dwarfs, mermaids, fortune tellers and card sharps, pick pockets, prostitutes and vagabonds (Wow! Sounds like a great event – I think we should reinstate it!)

St Bartholomew was very popular in medieval England and 165 ancient churches were dedicated to him, including Croyland Abbey in Lincolnshire, where there was a custom of giving little knives to the congregation in his memory.

On this day printers had a holiday called the Wayzgoose. The 24th marked the point when they officially recognised the shortening days and began working by candlelight. As compensation their employers gave them a small payment which was used to finance a goose feast or, by the 19th century, a seaside outing.

28th – St Augustine of Hippo (died AD430)

On this day darn any clothes in preparation for winter.

31st – St Aidan’s Day

He died on this day in AD641. He was the first Bishop of Lindisfarne, and was noted for his miracles, apparently.

April Days of the Month

1st April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day

Marked by the playing of practical jokes. The origin of this is unknown, but it is generally thought to derive from the French poisson d’avril (literally April fish).

3rd Mothering Sunday (in 2011)

This is the fourth Sunday in Lent. This was an occasion when young people in service could go home taking bunches of primroses and violets for their mothers. Simnel cakes were baked and given. This is a rich fruit cake baked with a layer of marzipan in the centre and decorated with a topping of marzipan and flowers.

On Mothering Sunday, above all other,
Every child should dine with his mother.

6th Old Lady Day

“On Old Lady Day the latter
The cold comes over the water.”

10th Passion Sunday (in 2011)

Also known as Carling Sunday. Carlings are grey peas that are soaked, boiled and fried, and eaten on this day.

On this day in 1633 a bunch of bananas was put in a shop window, the first time they had been so displayed in England.

11th St Guthlar’s

He was a hermit who lived in the fens and in whose honour Crowland Abbey was built by King Ethelbad.

14th First Cuckoo Day

The cuckoo is released from a basket by the old woman at Heathfield Fair in Sussex. He flies up England carrying warmer days with him.

The cuckoo sings from St Tiburtius Day (14th April) to St Johns Day (24th June).

“The cuckoo comes in April,
And stays the month of May,
Sings a song at midsummer
And then goes away.”

“The cuckoo is a pretty bird,
She singeth as she flies;
She bringeth us good tidings,
She telleth us no lies;
She sucketh all sweet flowers
To keep her throttle clear,
And every time she singeth
‘Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo,’
The summer draweth near.”

17th Palm Sunday (in 2011)

The Sunday before Easter (6th Sunday in Lent). It can fall anywhere between 15th March and 18th April. A time for eating figgy pudding.

When people used to wear a sprig of pussy willow

“I have a little pussy,
Her coat is silver grey,
I found her in the meadow,
Not very far away.
My little silver pussy
Will never be a cat
‘Cause she’s a pussy-willow
Now – what do you think of that?”

19th St Alphage (952-1012)

Murdered by the Danes at Greenwich, where his church still stands.

21st St Anselm (1033-1109)

Archbishop of Canterbury.

23rd St George’s Day

The real St George was a Christian born in Cappadogg, and served in the Roman Army. The legend of him fighting a dragon was added in the 14th century.

He was introduced to Britain by returning crusaders, and by the mid 14th century he had replaced Edward the Confessor as patron saint of England.

“Oh, where is St George,
Oh, where is he oh?
He is out in his long boat all on the salt sea oh.
Up flies the kite and down falls the lark oh,
Aunt Ursula Birdwood she had an old ewe
But it died in her own park oh!”

24th St Mark’s Eve

‘Tis now, replied the village belle,
St Mark’s mysterious eve,
And all that old traditions tell
I tremblingly believe;
How, when the midnight signal tolls,
Along the churchyard green,
A mournful train of sentenced souls
In winding sheets are seen.
The ghosts of all whom death shall down
Within the coming year,
In pale procession walk the gloom,
Amid the silence drear.

“On St Mark’s Eve, at twelve o’clock,
The fair maid she will watch her smock
To find her husband in the dark
By praying unto good St Mark.”

Bertha was a maiden fair
Dwelling in the old Minster-square;
From her fireside she could see
Sidelong its rich antiquity—
Far as the Bishop’s garden wall
Where Sycamores and elm trees tall
Full-leav’d the forest had outstript—
By no sharp north wind ever nipt
So shelter’d by the mighty pile—
Bertha arose and read awhile
With forehead ‘gainst the window-pane—
Again she tried and then again
Until the dusk eve left her dark
Upon the Legend of St. Mark.
From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin
She lifted up her soft warm chin,
With aching neck and swimming eyes
And daz’d with saintly imageries.

– from “The Eve of St. Mark” by John Keats, 1819

27th St Zita’s Day

Patron saint of housewives, servants and bakers. Invoked by people who cannot find their keys.

28th

On this day in 1772 a goat died. He had twice circumnavigated the globe, first in the ‘Dolphin’ and secondly in the renowned ‘Endeavour’ with Captain Cook. The Lords of the Admiralty had just previous to her death signed a warrant admitting her to the privileges of a pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, a boon she did not live to enjoy.

29th

Noah left the ark, having entered it on 17th March. Or so it says in the Bible.

30th May Day Eve

Also Beltane, Walpurgis night. The ancient festival of Beltane began when the winter sun had died. Walpurgis night is an important witch’s festival.

Days of the Month of March

1st
St David’s Day.
He was a sixth century monk and bishop, patron saint of Wales. He died today in 589.

2nd
St Chad
, Bishop of Lichfield, died today in 672. The water from St Chad’s Well was mixed with dust from his shrine and sold as a cure-all for 6d a glass. He is the patron saint of medicinal springs. Chadwell, in Essex, is derived from St Chad’s name.

 

“Sow peas and beans on David or Chad
Whether the weather be good or bad.”

 

3rd
St Winnols Day.
First comes David, then comes Chad.
Then comes Winnol, roaring like mad.

4th
St Adrian’s Day.
He was a fifth century hermit, who died on this day in 875.

5th
St Piran’s Day.
He was the patron saint of tin miners. A fifth century hermit, one of Cornwall’s most popular saints. Many Cornish villages are named Perran-something, after the saint.

6th
St Baldred’s Day.
He was an eighth century hermit.

8th
St John’s Day.
He lived from 1495 to 1550 and devoted himself to the sick and destitute. After his death his followers were organised into the Brothers of St John of God. He is the patron saint of hospitals, nurses and the sick. His emblem is a pomegranate surmounted by a cross.

St Felix’s Day. He died in 648, but his name survives in the place name of Felixstowe.

12th
St Gregory the Great’s Day.
He was a sixth century pope who died on this day in 604. Sow onion on St Gregory’s Day for a good crop. On this day St Gregory opens the flowers for the bees.

15th
Beware the Ides of March.

17th
St Joseph of Arimathea’s Day. Joseph was said to have come to Britain in AD63. He stuck his thorn staff in the ground at Glastonbury, where it took root, grew, and flowers still every year at Christmas.

St Patrick’s Day. Patron saint of Ireland. He was born in 389 in Northamptonshire, the son of a Roman soldier who had converted to Christianity, and a Celtic mother. He was sold as a slave aged 16, and taken to Ireland.

On the third Thursday in March St Clement Dane’s Church in the Strand, London, holds its oranges and lemons service. The whole church is decorated with the fruit and afterwards it is given out to children, and the bells chime out the old nursery rhyme at 9.00am, 3.00pm and 6.00pm.

18th
St Edward the Martyr’s Day.
He died on this day in 979, at Corfe Castle. He was a Saxon King of England who was made a saint after he was murdered. He is buried at Shaftesbury, where many miracles were said to have taken place at his tomb.

19th
St Alkmund’s Day
(774-819). He became the patron saint of Derby after he was murdered by the Danes and his body moved there. Eight old churches are dedicated to him.

St Joseph’s Day. Husband of the Virgin Mary, and patron saint of carpenters, fathers, pastry cooks and working men. It is said of old, if you have trouble selling your house bury a figure of St Joseph upside down in your front garden.

21st
Spring Vernal Equinox.
This day was celebrated by the ancient Celts as the day when the sun god Bran regains power over the forces of darkness and causes the days to lengthen. It’s said his burial place is on Tower Hill.

24th
St Gabriel’s Day.
The archangel is invoked by those waiting, or looking for, good news. As such he is the patron saint of messengers, the post and telephone.

This day was New Year’s Eve until 1752 and the calendar change.

25th
St Mary’s Day.
St Mary blows out the candle, and St Michael (September 29th) lights it again.

This day was regarded as the first day of the year until the mid-18th century. It is the first of the quarter days. It is also the birthday of Adam, and a great day for seeing fairies.

This day is also known as Lady Day, the day on which, according to Christians, Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of Christ.

It is considered unlucky for Lady Day to fall on Easter (Eostre) day.

27th
On this day in 1790 the shoelace is said to have been invented. Just thought I’d put that in.

28th
St Alleda’s Day
– a Saxon princess. I don’t know much about her, I’m afraid.

31st
This is the time of the Blackthorn Winter. Just when you thought spring was on its way and the hedge covered in the white blossom of the Sloe, chill winds blow from the north-west. Typical English weather, but we fall for it every time.