Good Housekeeping: Saint Catherine’s Day, by Deborah Stout

[Saint Catherine of Alexandria]Whoso is in quest of novelty in the way of a holiday, a party or an entertainment, may well give thought to Saint Catherine’s day, the twenty-fifth of November. This most gracious lady was an early Christian, an invincible defender of the faith, and the patron saint of the city of Venice; likewise, being a spinster, of maidens, of philosophy and belles lettres.

Saint Catherine’s day has long been celebrated in Italy, in France, in England and perhaps other European countries. The twenty-fifth of November is known in Paris as “old maids’ day,” and the girls carry bouquets to the churches, laying them upon the altar for Saint Catherine and praying for a husband. At Milton Abbey in England is Saint Catherine’s chapel, where maidens are said to offer up a prayer as follows:

“A husband, Saint Catherine;
A handsome one, Saint Catherine;
A rich one, Saint Catherine;
A nice one, Saint Catherine;
And soon, Saint Catherine!”

The requirements which Saint Catherine is said to have established for a husband for herself were as follows: He must be nobly born; he must be great; handsome; benign. Unable to find these qualities combined to her satisfaction, she remained single. There is a tradition that the simple peasant folk believed the only man ever born worthy of her was the divine Son of Mary.

– from the article “Saint Catherine’s Day” by Deborah Stout, Good Housekeeping, 1908