This is a day with several meanings: arrival of winter in Estonia, the martyrdom of St Catherine by the Romans and Catherinettes Day in France.
One ancient custom is that on 25th of November the girls should visit a statue of St Catherine, where they make a little prayer for a husband.
Saint Catherine be good
In England we have a shorter folk saying:
St Catherine, St Catherine, O lend me thine aid,
St. Catherine: although a noted Christian saint and martyr she was probably a mythological invention; un-documented sources put her as a scholar in the early 4th century.
Martyrdom: As a Christian, Catherine of Alexandria, (Saint Catherine of the Wheel) was sentenced the Roman Emperor Maxentius, the barbaric method in favour for women was torture then death on the wheel. However, when Catherine was placed on the wheel it was the one that broke. She was then beheaded, and later achieved the status of Saint. Incidentally, Joan of Arc said that Saint Catherine appeared to her on more than one occasion.
In the late middle ages St. Catherine was one of the most influential saints and her feast day on November 25th was a popular one.
Catherine of Aragon was born on 16th December 1485, died 7th January 1536 - was also known as Katherine or Katharine, and she was the first wife of King Henry VIII, (and also the first wife to Henry's older brother who died, Arthur, Prince of Wales). She lived in Bedfordshire as the Queen of England at Ampthill 1531 to 1533, until Henry VIII divorced her.
There is a local recipe from Bedfordshire to celebrate St. Catherine's Day on the 25th of November, with cakes which were also named after Catherine of Aragon, a famous Tudor inhabitant of the county. It can be found on this recipe page.:
The traditions of Catterning appear to Will and Guy to be very similar to those of Souling which is celebrated on the 2nd November.
Indeed, Charlotte Burn, in 1914, argued persuasively that these were all aspects of the same custom, we have learned.
The traditions of Catterning were first mentioned in 1730 and like 'souling' beggars and children went around on the 25th November to houses singing and knocking on doors for cakes and breads, (in some counties it was for apples and beer). However Charlotte Burn noted that Catterning, unlike Souling, was (probably) mainly a tradition for women, and/or women dressed up like men.
The Reverend WD Parish, Vicar of Selmeston, Sussex, England, in 1875 records this tradition as: "catterning". To go catterning is to go round begging for apples and beer for a festival on St. Catherine's Day, and singing:
'Cattern' and Clemen' be here, here, here,
In France women who reach the age of 25 and are not married are called Catherinettes. Their motto is: 'Lord, give me a husband who's bearable, or who can at least pass as bearable in the world!' Whereas French girls under 25 would pray: 'Lord, give me a well-situated husband. Let him be gentle, rich, generous, and pleasant!'
Catherinettes form support groups, and they can be recognised by their hats, which are yellow (for faith) and green (for wisdom), topped off by some eye-catching feature. Tradition has it that Catherinettes should wear the hat for the entire day without taking it off even indoors. Milliners in France, and elsewhere, have not been slow to produce ranges of hats to celebrate St Catherine's Day.
Mathematics of Marriage
Vicky, a young single lady visits the local dating agency and explains, 'I'm looking for a husband. Can you please help me to find a suitable one?'
The dating receptionist needs to find out some details so she asks, 'What are your requirements, please?'
'Well, let me see.' Vicky says, 'He needs to be fine looking, polite, humorous, sporty, knowledgeable, good at singing and dancing. Willing accompany me the whole day at home during my leisure hours, if I don't go out. Telling me interesting stories when I need companion for conversation and be silent when I want to rest.'
The receptionist listens politely and carefully and responds, 'I understand. You need a television.'
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