Sunday, November 25, 2007

St. Catherine Feast Day

Feast Day of St. Catherine

Rise, maidens, rise

Bake your Kattern pies,

Bake enough and bake no waste

And let the bellman have a taste.

November 25th is the feast day of St. Catherine

On the feast day of St Catherine of Alexandria, Cattern cakes were the traditional cakes baked. Saint Catherine of Alexandria is not to be confused with Catherine of Aragon (below) although, they do share the same name day. Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of unmarried women. In English lace making villages, Catterns Day was celebrated with games and special foods, especially Cattern (or Kattern) Cakes. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick is a nursery rhyme associated with a game played on the holiday involving, oddly enough, jumping over a candlestick! Cattern Cakes are seasoned with caraway. source

Catherine lived in Alexandria, Egypt...The tradition of making special efforts to celebrate her day started in Québec with the nun, Marguerite Bourgeoys. The tradition of making taffy on this day also started with Marguerite Bourgeoys...St Catherine was a popular French saint, one of the saints that Joan of Arc frequently struck up conversations with. It's also considered a special day for single women. Taffy pulls were held in some places as an excuse for a party for single women to meet eligible bachelors, in time for a date at the Christmas parties that would soon be starting. source

St. Catherine's Day: On this day in the 17th century in Quebec, students began to make toffee in honour of St. Catherine, It's a tradition to make pulled taffy on November 25th for St.Catherine's Day. source

Catherine of Aragon

The once flourishing industry of Saffron Walden in Essex, got it's name from Catherine of Aragon. She was born on December 16, 1485. History teaches us about the trials and tribulations of her marriage to Henry VIII. What I was unable to find was any petals of her move to Bedfordshire, England. There, she taught the villagers how to grow saffon crocuses. Growers were called "crokers." Through her efforts, Bedfordshire became famous for it's saffron. In some villages, Catherine was honered on her birthday with a special dessert called Kattern Cakes. Bellmen went crying through the streets begging for a taste of the delicious cakes.

The dried stamens of the saffron or cultivated crocus, a bulb, originating in the East and introduced into Spain by the Arabs, cultivated in France, particularly in the Gatinais, since the sixteenth century. Saffron contains a volatile and a colouring substance. It is the indispensable condiment for bouillabaisse. Larousse Gastronomique by Prosper Montagne

I wanted to share a bit more from Larousse Gastronomique on the birthday of Prosper Montagne, November, 14th but, for the life of me I couldn't find my book. We just moved blah blah blah....anyway, I found it today and I am delighted! The world's most expensive spice is presently grown and harvested in countries such as Spain. Saffron has found deep roots in American history.

Saffron made its way to the Americas when thousands of Alsatian, German, and Swiss Anabaptists, Dunkards, and others fled religious persecution in Europe. They settled mainly in eastern Pennsylvania, in the Susquehanna River valley. These settlers, who became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, were by 1730 widely cultivating saffron after corms were first brought to America in a trunk owned by German adherents of a Protestant sect known as the Schwenkfelder Church. Schwenkfelders, as members were known, were great lovers of saffron, and had grown it back in Germany. Soon, Pennsylvania Dutch saffron was being successfully marketed to Spanish colonists in the Caribbean, while healthy demand elsewhere ensured that its listed price on the Philadelphia commodities exchange was set equal to that of gold. wikipedia

Saffron has always been a traditional ingredient in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. It is the only exotic spice used by some PA Dutch cooks.

The vermillion color of saffron forms a prominent part of India culture as at least traditionally has been used to make special tilak marks on the forehead which have a rich symbolism of their own. And of course the delectable dishes of India often incorporate this wonderful and costly spice into their making. A few precious threads of Saffron can transform a nicely spiced dish into one of fine sublimity. One particular encounters it in special sweet dishes to which it imparts both color and fragrance.

I must admit, while researching for this page, I have found at least two more avenues of interest I wish to explore. 1) I would like to dig deeper into the influences of Catherine of Aragon on the Befordshire villagers. If you would like to read more about the fascinating life of Catherine, I found a few resources listed below. 2) It appears that saffron is fairly easy to grow although tedious to harvest. It has a place in the kitchen pantry for more enhancements then I ever realized and I think it would be interesting to take a stab at growing it for personal use. What do you think?

Note: I discovered the information about Catherine of Aragon in a cookbook titled The Royal Cookbook Favorite Court Recipes from the World's Royal Families Copyright 1971, Published by Parents Magazine Press. I'm sad to say, I know longer have access to the book but I am on a mission to find it for my collection. It's a feast of tidbits and recipes on the Monarchies of Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Iran, Morocco, Jordan, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Laos, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, Greece, and more.

    St Catherine of Alexandria
  • 1 Cattern Cakes
  • 2 Bedfordshire Kattern Cakes
  • 3How to Host Your Own Old-Fashioned Taffy Pull Party
  • 4 Yorkshire Toffee Recipes
  • 5 Toffee Recipes
    Catherine of Aragon
  • 6 Catherine of Aragon
  • 7 Biography of Reine Catherine D'Aragon
  • 8 Catherine Cakes
  • 9 Growing Saffron
  • 10 Saffron Yoghurt Recipe
  • 11 Name Day Celebrations


  1. What do americans do to celebrate the FEAST DAY OF ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRAIA?

  2. Most people I know bake Cattern cakes on St. Catherine's Day.

    Thanks for visiting...

  3. Is that it or do they get hats from friends and send postcards to others and/or do they pray for a husband?

    I am doing a report on this and I cant find what they do in America so i am asking questions sorry for the inconvenience.

  4. Im sorry I can't be of more assistance. Perhaps, this website will help you. Good Luck!


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