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September Holidays Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints

September 1 St Fiacre
Patron saint of gardeners, Fiachra was a seventh-century Irishman who built a hermitage in France near Meaux. His vegetable and herb gardens were famous, and he is usually depicted in art holding a shovel and a book. The shrine and chapel he built were popular sites of pilgrimage for invalids, especially those suffering from hemorrhoids(!), for centuries.

His feast day is celebrated on September 1st in Ireland and France (where he gave his name to a particular kind of carriage due to the proximity of a hotel named after him to a taxi-stand) but on August 30th in other countries.

For a beautiful rendition of St Fiacre, visit this website

Attwater, Donald, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 1965
Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens,
The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

September 1 Greek New Year
From early on (OCY suggests 462), this was the first date of both the calendar year and the religious year in Greece. It is still considered the start of the year in the Greek Orthodox calendar.

Since this is the beginning of the autumn sowing season, Greek farmers take seeds to church to be blessed (much like farmers in France on February 3rd). In Greece, people also make first-of-the-year wreaths with fruits and herbs which symbolize abundance. On the island of Kos, people use pomegranates, grapes, quinces, garlic bulbs and plane-tree leaves; on Rhodes, they work with walnuts, onions, garlic, grapes, tufts of cotton and bags full of grain. Just before dawn on September 1st, the children take the old wreaths down to the sea and throw them in; the new ones are dipped in the ocean water for good luck. Only after the new wreaths are hung up can the sowing begin.

Another new year tradition involves collecting 40 pebbles from the beach and water from the tops of 40 waves in a jar which is taken home and kept as a protection charm.

This is an ominous day as well as a beginning, for this is the day the Angel of Death writes down the names of all those who will die in the coming year, expressing the quality of judgement also found in the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashana, which falls on the new moon of September. This suggests the two holidays derive from the same source as the first of September would have been the new moon (first day) of the lunar month.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book: Celebrations for Every Day of the Year, Harper San Francisco 1994

September 1 Opening of Oyster Season
Since this is the first of the eight months containing an R which are considered the safe months for eating oysters, this might be considered the beginning of oyster season, although the traditional date for Oyster Day (at least in England) is August 5th

Celebrate by eating oysters.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

Maypole DanceSt Fiacre
St Fiacre sculpture by Patricia Banks of www.patriarts.com. Used with permission.

September 1 St Partridge

Well, this is friendship! What on earth brings you here, old fellow? Why aren't you in the stubble celebrating St Partridge?
From Robert Elsmere by Mrs Humphry Ward, 1888

St Partridge is another one of those mythical saints, like St Distaff (see January), whose names mark a holiday, in this case, the opening of partridge hunting season in England, which continues until February 1st. The quotation above implies that partridge season begins after the harvest is in and the hunters can cross the fields without damaging the grain.

September 1 Labor Day

September 2 Niketeria
On the second day of the lunar month of Boedromion, the Greeks celebrated the goddess Nike, who is depicted as the winged victory. She was honored as a companion, or aspect, of Athena.

September 3 Ganesh Chaturthi
On the fourth day of the bright lunar fortnight of Bhadra. Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is the god of wisdom and success and the remover of all obstacles. In most Hindu homes, a statue of Ganesh over the main door wards off evil. He is propitiated with the words, "I bow to Lord Ganesh," at every new beginning, a marriage, the beginning of a construction project or the starting of a new account book.

On the fourth day of the bright lunar fortnight of Bhadra, people get up early and bathe before preparing for this special day. Statues of Ganesha are purchased in the market and installed in the family shrine, where he is honored with flowers, lighted candles, food including sweet-balls (modokas), prayers and songs.

Artists flock to Maharashtra to make images of Ganesh—some over 30 feet in height. Eighty thousand idols are installed around the city in public spaces, along with 3 million statues in private homes. The culmination of the festival occurs on the tenth day when the idols are taken by rick-shaw, cart, cars and trucks down to the nearest river, lake, pond or well and immersed.

In Nepal people stay inside on the evening before this feast as catching sight of the ill-omened crescent moon would bring disaster. This is considered a good night for thieves.

Anderson, Mary M, The Festivals of Nepal, London: Allen & Unwin 1971, p. 121-6
Barnouw, Victor, "The Changing Character of a Hindu Festival,"
American Anthropologist 56 (1954), 75-6
Bhatnagar, Professor O.O. "Ganeshotsava of Maharashtra," in
Popular Festivals of India, edited by Sunil Kumar, Nag, Calcutta: Golden Books of India 1983, pp. 36-7
Sharma, Brijendra Nath,
The Festivals of India, New Delhi: Abhinav Publishing 1978 p. 107-8

September 4 Waverly’s birthday
In preparing for my birthday, I like to keep in mind Demetra George’s sage advice about viewing the month right before your birthday as a period for reflection and evaluation, like the dark phase of the moon. She says it may seem like the darkness before dawn, especially as we grow older. It is time when our fears and insecurities surface, when we are apt to be more sensitive and emotional, like the time of bleeding in the menstrual cycle. “The purpose of the dark phase of any cycle is that of transition between the old and the birth of the new. The dark time is a time of retreat, of healing, and of dreaming the future.” [p. 5]

When I was younger, I always gave myself a party on my birthday, inviting all my favorite people and setting up a theme ahead of time (retro Sixties was a favorite) which permeated the décor, suggested costumes, the music, food and the presents people brought (although I always asked them not to). I highly recommend this practice. The only reason I stopped is that Seattle puts on a huge party for me at the Seattle Center every year on my birthday weekend (the Bumbershoot festival).

George, Demetra, Mysteries of the Dark Moon, Harper San Francisco, 1992

September 5 Genesia
On the third day of the lunar month of Boedromion, the Greeks held a state celebration in honor of the dead. This holakeiday was originally celebrated only by the aristocratic clans in their private burial grounds.

September 6 Artemis Agrotera
On the fifth day of Boedromion, the Greeks celebrated Artemis of the Field, or Artemis the Huntress, with a sacrifice and a feast of goat meat.

September 8 Nativity of Mary
Mary has a number of holidays in the autumn months because she took over many of the religious functions of the grain goddesses, like Demeter.

According to Yoder, who writes about the folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch:

It's Blessed Virgin's Birthday,
The swallows do depart;
Far to the South they fly away,
And sadness fills my heart.
But after snow and ice and rain
They will in March return again.

In Italy, this is a name day for all women named Maria. Barolini says that she always eats blueberries on this day, either in muffins or on cereal or pancakes, as the blue color symbolizes the Virgin Mary's blue robe.

In Santeria, this is a feast day for Oshun, Orisha of Love and Compassion. According to Luisah Teish, she likes offerings of honey, cinnamon, oranges, pumpkins and French pastries

Barolini, Helen, Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich 1988
Teish, Luisah,
Jambalaya, Harper & Row 1985
Yoder, Don,
Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

St Partridge

September 8 Berehynia
Russian women who embroider goddess cloths consider this the birthday of the harvest goddess, Berehynia. Her name means "Nymph."

September 8 Wakes Monday
On the first Monday following the first Sunday (Wakes Sunday) after September 4th, the ancient Horn Dance is performed in Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, a tradition going back centuries, according to legend back to Norman times. The dance is carried out by six men carrying reindeer horns to tunes performed by a man with a concertina and a boy with a triangle (supposedly once a pipe and tabor). They are accompanied in their rounds by a hobby horse, a Maid Marian (a man dressed in women's clothing who collects donations), a fool, and an archer. On the Revels tape, one can hear a haunting melody associated with the dance, although Gladys Spicer writing about observing it in the 1940's mentions lighter tunes like Yankee Doodle (supposedly once a Cavalier ditty making fun of Olive Cromwell under the name "Nankie Doodle"), John Peel and Capri.

September 9 Pan
On the 9th day of Boedromion, the Greeks honored the god Pan with a torch race, probably ending at his altar in the cave under the Acropolis cliff.

Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Cornell University Press 1977

September 11 Coptic New Year
The Copts, a Christian sect in Egypt, celebrate the beginning of the year when Sirius, the dog star (known as Sothis to the Egyptians) appeared in the skies, heralding the flooding of the Nile and the beginning of a new agricultural year. On this day, martyrs to the Coptic faith are remembered with the color red (seen in altar cloths and vestments) and by eating red dates (the hard pit symbolizes the unbreakable faith of the martyrs).

This holiday is called Enkutatash in Ethiopia where it is celebrated by the Amahric people as St. John's Day and with customs similar to those found in European celebrations of midsummer. Girls dress up and gather wild flowers, which they give to their neighbors, often receiving a treat of dabo (roasted grain) in return. Boys go from house to house with lighted torches, signing "New Year" songs.

Levina, Donald, Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture, University of Chicago Press, 1965, pp. 61-2
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994
Spiegelman, Judith,
UNICEF's Festival Book, US Committee for UNICEF 1966

September 12 Most Holy Name of Mary
Commemorates a victory in the name of Mary against the Turks in 1683.

A day to honor your name or the power of naming or to change your name.

September 13 Banquet of Venus, Vintage Festival
The Romans honored Venus, who began her life as an Etruscan garden goddess, before she merged with the Greek Aphrodite and became the Goddess of Love.

Berehynia tapestry

September 14 The Day of the Holy Nut, Holy Rood Day
In England, this is the Devil's Nutting Day, or the Day of the Holy Nut. Hazelnuts collected on this day have magical properties. Double nuts (two on a stalk) ward off rheumatism, toothache and the spells of witches. But don't gather them if they're unripe. The hazel is a powerful tree (the tree of wisdom, some say) and gathering unripe nuts can be dangerous.

This day they say is called Holy Rood Day
And all the youths are now a-nutting gone.

This is also Holy Rood Day, commemorating the rescue of the relic of the True Cross by Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople when it was carried off by Chosroes II, King of Persia in 614. Rufus says that historians now believe the Church instituted this feast to replace rites honoring Demeter and Persephone (perhaps the Eleusinian Mysteries?).

Tickle notes that this holiday was originally observed in September, then moved to May, perhaps to bring it closer to Easter, when the symbol of the cross is most visible. Then the Church reversed its position and moved it back to the 14th of September. Tickle also notes that the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday directly after Holy Cross Day are Ember Days, days devoted to prayers for the clergy.

In Greece, this is the day when seamen bring their boats in until April, according to this proverb:

On the day of the Cross, cross your sails and tie your ropes; rest in harbor. On St. George's Day, rise and set sail again.

Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994
Tickle, Phyllis,
Ordinary Time

Hazel nuts

September 14 Eleusinian Mysteries begin
The full moon of the Greek month of Boedromion signaled the beginning of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which began with a procession to Eleusis where the ceremonies were celebrated.

On the second day, the initiates went down to the ocean and bathed in the sea, then put on new garments of linen. On the third day, an altar was built around a tree and Demeter was honored by burning incense, pouring libations, sacrificing pigs and offerings of barley.

On the fourth day, Epidauria, particpants processed through the town, with a cart carrying an image or representative of Demeter. The fifth day re-enacted Demeter's search for Kore, with initiates carrying lit torches and looking for the Kore. Matrons carried baskets filled with "Holy Things," sacred to Demeter: combs, grain, mirrors, snakes.

The sixth day culminated with Holy Night, the high point of the Mysteries. The initiates processed along the Sacred Way, stopping at a sacred fig tree and crossing two bridges. At one of the bridges they encountered the goddess Baubo who tried to lighten Demeter’s heavy mood by lifting up her skirts and making the goddess laugh. At the second bridge, they passed through some sort of challenge, which required knowing a password. The procession ended at a subterranean temple where the initiates waited in darkness. Probably there was a ritual drama. The early Christian fathers who disapproved of the rites claimed that the heirophant and the priestess had sex. According to Hippolytus, the revelation at the heart of the ritual was the display of “the mighty and wonderful and most perfect mystery—a harvested ear of corn—in silence.”

In silence is the seed of wisdom gained.
Does not the real secret of every mystery lie in its simplicity?
Kerenyi, Introduction to Mythology, p 248

On the following day, Sports Day, the initiates participated in athletic games and races, with the winners rewarded with barley. The eighth and final day was called Second Initiation, and took place in caves. It may have been a repeat for those who had not fully grasped the Mysteries the first time through, or a confirmation of what had been realized at that time.

September 15 Full Moon in Pisces

September 15 Sorrows of Mary/Addolorata
Mary had seven great sorrows in her life: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, when the child Jesus was lost for 3 days, meeting her son on his way to his crucifixion, standing at the foot of the cross, taking down his body, and burying him.

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.
Stabat Mater

In southern Italy, the third Sunday in September is the festival of the Addolorata. Mary is called La Pecorella, the little lamb, a name connected with an old pagan sacrifice. This day is also connected with the wheat harvest and the ritual meal is cuccia salata, wheat berries cooked in meat broth and layered with goat or pork. At the end of the day, a lamb is raffled off which is boiled with onions and bay leaves, then shared with friends.

Seems like a valuable day for looking at the occasions of sorrow in your life. What are the seven greatest sorrows you've experienced?

In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach offers this Sufi teaching about dealing with pain and sorrow:

Overcome any bitterness that may have come
Because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain
That was entrusted to you.
Like the Mother of the World,
Who carries the pain of the world in her heart,
Each one of us is part of her heart,
And therefore endowed
With a certain measure of cosmic pain.

Brach also provides a guided mediation in which you breathe into any suffering you are experiencing, and then begin offering words of compassion and care to that place inside you, perhaps using the phrase “May I be free from suffering” or Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion: “Darling, I care about this suffering.”

Brach, Tara, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Bantam 2004
Field, Carol,
Celebrating Italy, William Morrow 1981

September 15 Mid-Autumn Moon or Zhong Qui Jie

Click here for ideas about celebrating the mid-autumn moon.

September 15 Mid Autumn Day
A Scottish holiday, traditionally considered the start of mating season for the deer.

Mary of Sorrows

More September Holidays


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