Dates for assembly

17th September 2004 at 01:00
The feast of the Archangel Michael is also one of the historic Quarter Days and coincides with an ancient pagan festival

Outline script for assembly leaders

Ask your parents what St Michael means to them and they may well say knickers. From 1928 until very recently it was the brand name to be found in all underwear and other clothing sold in Marks and Spencer.The name was chosen because one of the firm's founders was a Jew named Michael Marks, and, in Christian folklore, St Michael is said to protect the Jewish people.

He is also important to Christians - but he is not like most saints. He is an angel, one of the spirits who act as God's messengers. Lucifer (also called Satan or the Devil) is said to have once been an angel but he rebelled against God and was driven out of heaven by Michael.

Michael appears in the Old Testament. He spoke with Abraham and appeared to Moses. Christians have thought of him as the protector of the church and he is important to Muslims. He is described in their holy book, the Qur'an, as having "wings of green emerald covered with saffron hair".

At one time, people believed Michael looked after the souls of people who had died and helped them reach heaven. They imagined him taking them there by boat. This idea is remembered in the words of the song "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore".

Christians think of him at this time of year, hoping he will protect them through the dark days of winter. His feast day became one of the four days which, in England, divided the year into quarters (the others being March 25, June 24 and Christmas Day). In olden times, all rents had to be paid on these quarter days, and Michaelmas day (at the end of harvest) was when farm tenancies changed hands.

In even older times, this day (close to the autumn equinox, when day and night are of equal length) was a pagan harvest festival called Mabon which was celebrated by drinking newly made cider.

Follow-up

* A comprehensive list of traditions associated with St Michael and his feast day can be found at www.wilsonsalmanac.commichaelmas.html * Discuss: do you believe in angels?

* Research and create a collage picturing references to St Michael.

* Maths: Do the quarter days divide the year equally?

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