British Traditions > September

Before the insertion of July and August, September was correctly named by the Romans as the seventh month of the year. The Anglo-Saxons called it Gerstmonath (meaning ‘Barley month’) or Hayfestmonath (meaning ‘Harvest month’).

14th September

This is Holy Cross Day, sometimes called Holyrood Day. Traditionally this was said to be the best day for picking nuts. There is an old saying ‘the Devil goes nutting on Holyrood Day’.

St. Michaelmas Day - 29th September

Saint Michael The Angel
Historically September is the month of agricultural fairs, the main purpose of which was to sell livestock. Some of the better known fairs were: Wilton Great Fair on September 12th, Weyhill Fair on October 10th (Old Michaelmas Day before the new calendar was imposed), St. Giles Fair in Winchester on September 12th.

Fairs like these were held countrywide throughout September building up to a climax at Michaelmas which was an important day in the agricultural calendar since many tenancies ran from Michaelmas to Michaelmas.

Horning Ceremony

At Weyhill Fair an initiation ceremony was held for new shepherds. Each new sherperd had to wear a pair of ram’s horns on his head with a metal cup full of ale balanced between the horns. While he stood very still the others involved in the ceremony would chant:

“Swift is the hare, cunning is the fox, 
Why should not the little calf grow up to be an ox!
To get his own living among the briars and thorns,
And die like his daddy with a great pair of horns. “

The new shepherd then had to drink the cup of ale which had been balanced on his head and buy a half-gallon of ale for everyone else to drink.