St Catherine's Day


St Catherine's Day
(25 November)
   This (probably fictional) martyr, very popular in the Middle Ages, was said to have been broken on a wheel - hence the 'Catherine wheel' firework. She was patron saint of lace-makers, spinners, rope-makers, wheelwrights, carpenters, young women, and female students, and some of these had customs particular to her day, although some of them seem to have confused the Saint with Queen Catherine of Aragon. In Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, lace-makers and children attending lace-making school, took Catterns Day as a holiday. They called at neighbours' houses requesting refreshment, and some of them dressed up as men to do so. Cakes called wiggs (oblong-shaped and flavoured with caraway seeds) and 'hot pot' (warm beer containing beaten eggs and rum) were traditional fare on the day. In the evening, catherine wheels were ignited and a game of jumping the candlestick was played - if the candle went out as a woman jumped over it she would have bad luck for the coming year (compare a similar game under *buckets). These customs had largely died out by the 1890s. A tradition which explains the connection between lace-making and St Catherine's Day relates that Queen Catherine of Aragon first taught the trade to English women and that once, when trade was very poor, she burnt her lace and ordered new to be made, encouraging other ladies at the court to follow suit (N&Q 3s:1 (1862), 387) (see also *St Andrew).
   In the mid-19th century, the rope-makers of Kent also celebrated the day in style. There they had torchlight processions on 25 November, with drums and fifes, and six men carrying a female wearing muslin and a gilt crown, to represent Queen Catherine (N&Q 2s:5 (1858), 47). In the earlier 19th century, the female children of the workhouse of Peterborough also went in procession on this day, dressed in white, with coloured ribbons. The tallest girl represented the Queen and had a crown and sceptre, and they visited houses and sang:
   Here comes Queen Catherine, as fine as any queen With a coach and six horses a-coming to be seen And a spinning we will go, will go, will go And a spinning we will go
   (Baker, 1854: ii. 436-7)
   At Melton Abbey, Dorset, there is a St Catherine's Chapel where, according to a local tradition recorded in 1865, spinsters used to pray: 'A husband, St Catherine; a handsome one, St Catherine; a rich one, St Catherine; a nice one, St Catherine; and soon, St Catherine!'. Another version of the alleged prayer ends: 'But arn-a-one's better than narn-a-one, St Catherine!' (The Family Herald (16 Sept. 1865), 319; quoted in Opie and Tatem, 1989: 336). Brand also gives detailed instructions for a *love divination for St Catherine's Day, taken from a chapbook called Mother Bunch's Golden Fortune-Teller. For the *visiting custom called 'Catterning', see *souling.
   ■ Wright and Lones, 1940: iii. 177-86; Brand, 1849: i. 410-14.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • St. Catherine's Day — November 25, Kadripäev (St. Catherine s Day) St. Catherine’s Day has retained its popularity throughout the centuries and is still widely celebrated in modern day Estonia. It marks the arrival of winter and is one of the more important and… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine Ségurane — ( Catarina Ségurana in the Niçard dialect of Provençal) is a folk heroine of the city of Nice, France who is said to have played a decisive role in repelling the city s siege by Turkish invaders allied with Francis I, the king of France, in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — Duchess of Cambridge redirects here. For other uses, see Duchess of Cambridge (disambiguation). Catherine Duchess of Cambridge (more) …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine de' Medici — Catherine de Medici, attributed to François Clouet, c. 1555 Queen consort of France Reign 31 March 1547 – 10 July 1559 …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine de' Medici's building projects — included the Valois chapel at Saint Denis, the Tuileries Palace, and the Hôtel de la Reine in Paris, and extensions to the château of Chenonceau, near Blois. Born in 1519 in Florence to an Italian father and a French mother, Catherine de Medici… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine de' Medici's patronage of the arts — made a significant contribution to the French Renaissance. Catherine was inspired by the example of her father in law, King Francis I of France (reigned 1515–1547), who had hosted the leading artists of Europe at his court. As a young woman, she… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine and her Destiny — is an Italian fairy tale collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in Italian Popular Tales , and included by Andrew Lang in The Pink Fairy Book .ynopsisCatherine was a rich merchant s beautiful daughter. One day a woman appeared to her and asked… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine de' Medici — • Born 13 April, 1519; died 5 January, 1589; she was the daughter of Lorenzo de Medici (II), Duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de la Tour d Auvergne who, by her mother, Catherine of Bourbon, was related to the royal house of France Catholic… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Catherine Uhlmyer — Gallagher Connelly (April 4, 1893 ndash; October 17, 2002) was the second to last and longest living survivor of the General Slocum fire of June 15, 1904.BirthShe was born as Catherine Uhlmyer in Manhattan, New York. Her father died before she… …   Wikipedia

  • Catherine Willoughby — Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, suo jure 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby (22 March 1519 19 September 1580), was a noblewoman living at the English courts of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and later, Queen Elizabeth I. Noted for her… …   Wikipedia