Saint Catherine's day
25 November, Saint Catherine's Day
The French expression "coiffer Sainte-Catherine", literally meaning "to don Saint Catherine's bonnet", is used to warn girls that they are likely to become spinsters, and refers to a religious practise dating from the Middle Ages.
Saint Catherine, a young Christian girl born to a noble Alexandrian family, was martyred for refusing to marry the Emperor Maximian because she was mystically betrothed to Christ. Consequently she became the patron saint of unwedded maidens.
On Saint Catherine's Day, young unwedded girls over the age 25 were responsible for the design and creation of a new bonnet for the statues of Saint Catherine: this was also an opportunity for the so-called "catherinettes" to be seen and appreciated as they created beautiful headdresses for themselves which they wore all day.
This custom has remained very much alive amongst French milliners who organised balls and parades to display their wares made in the traditional colours of yellow and green to symbolise faith and hope for marriage.