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Goose Day (Michaelmas)
Goose watching may be more to your liking than dining on goose for Michaelmas, but traditionally, in the British Isles, a well-fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year. “Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, Want not for money all the year”. Goose fairs, including the famous Nottingham Goose Fair, still mark this old custom. Allegedly, one of the reasons for this tradition is that when Queen Elizabeth I heard of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, she was dining on goose and resolved to eat it ever after on Michaelmas Day. An alternative goose-less Scottish Michaelmas tradition was to make Struan Micheil (St. Michael's Bannock), sometimes containing all the grains of the harvest.
(Anser albifrons flavirostris)
Photo by Skip Russell
September 29th is sometimes referred to as Goose Day, another name for the celebration of Michaelmas tied to harvest celebrations. The feast of St. Michael and All Angels was traditionally celebrated by eating a well-fattened goose which was deemed to 'spell prosperity for the coming year'. A Michaelmas goose was often known as a 'stubble goose' or 'green goose' as the birds would have been fed almost entirely on grass stubble and harvest gleanings - in contrast to the Christmas goose finished primarily on wheat.
Instead, today we celebrate the wild White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons flavirostris), known for its distinctive plumage.
From the designer's notes:
"Created for an exhibition, this tartan was inspired whilst on a ‘goose walk’ organised by RSPB Loch Lomond. The source of the inspiration came from observing the white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons flavirostris) who travel from their breeding ground in Greenland to the beautiful Loch shores each winter. The colours chosen are symbolic of those of the birds to which they relate and white was given more prominence in homage to their name. The tartan will be used to celebrate the beauty of the geese and to help raise their profile as an endangered species.
RSPB (Scotland) endorse the application for this design and it is envisaged that its creation will assist with the continuing efforts to conserve nature and the surrounding scenery that will protect the future survival of these striking birds."
For more on Michaelmas foods and customs, click the balancing goose photographed by Skip Russell.