St. Catherine Day – Old Maid’s Day in France

For many years, on November 25, hat makers (also called milliners) across France raised a toast to celebrate an event that now pops up on only a few people’s calendars, Saint Catherine’s Day. Also known as the Old Maid’s day, St. Catherine’s Day is an ancient holiday when all the single ladies and old maids wore extravagant hats in green and yellow and prayed for a good husband. The holiday has deep-rooted traditions but remains wildly unpopular in the modern world.

3 green hats on a blue table illustration
Illustration commissioned from Linden Eller.

History of St. Catherine’s Day

The story of St. Catherine begins in the 4th century with a young girl, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Born of noble parentage, Catherine was trying to convert Roman Emperor Maxentius to Christianity. Furious, he asks her to consult 50 philosophers, whom she also manages to convert.

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Emperor then asks Catherine for her hand in marriage but she rejects all his advances. Seething with rage, he imprisons her and straps her to a torture machine that is meant to shred her to pieces, but her death was interjected by some divine intervention. She was later beheaded by the Emperor.

In the middle ages, single ladies of 25 years of age and old maids (also known as Catherinettes) dressed in lavish outfits and extravagant hats and took a pilgrimage to St. Catherine’s statue, praying for her help in finding a good husband to prevent donning Saint Catherine’s bonnet and remain spinsters. She was/is the patron saint of unmarried women.

Saint Catherine statues in Paris
Image Source: Wikimedia

There are two statues of Sainte Catherine in Paris. You can still find her statue on the corner of rue de Clery and rue Poissonniere in the 2nd Arrondissement, and the corner of la rue de Sévigné and la rue Saint-Antoine in the 4th Arrondissement.

Statue of Catherinettes in the SQUARE MONTHOLON Paris
Statue of Catherinettes in the Square Montholon in Paris. Photo credit: Arnaud

There is also a sculpture by Julien Lorieux in the 9th arrondissement in the Square du Montholon (2 Rue Mayran). It depicts 5 working-class women celebrating Saint Catherine.

Catherinettes celebration at Printemps Haussmann shop in Paris, France on November 25, 2014. Photo by Alban Wyters

In Parisian society, the women went to grand balls and dances wearing crazy hats with green and yellow hanging objects to signal their availability. Traditionally, the yellow signified faith and success whereas the green was a symbol for wisdom and hope (in finding a good husband).

The Catherinettes Prayers for Different Age Groups:

  1. Before reaching the age of 25: “Donnez-moi, Seigneur, un mari de bon lieu! Qu'il soit doux, opulent, libéral et agréable!” (Lord, give me a well-situated husband. Let him be gentle, rich, generous, and pleasant!)
  1. After the age of 25: “Seigneur, un qui soit supportable, ou qui, parmi le monde, au moins puisse passer!” (Lord, one who is bearable, or who can at least pass as bearable in the world!)
  1. When she’s approaching 30: “Un tel qu'il te plaira Seigneur, je m'en contente!” (Send whoever you want, Lord; I'll be happy!)
woman praying

St. Catherine’s Day Today

Sainte Catherine was the patron saint of young women and old maids but by the 1900s, she also became the unofficial patron saint of milliners and craftsmen who work with wheels. It created an opportunity for milliners to show off their hat-making skills. A few couture houses and French milliners that design hats still celebrate by creating fancy green and yellow hats.

Along with wearing pretty hats, it was customary to send postcards of Saint Catherine to each other. As time progressed, the tradition was lost along the way, however, it still exists in smaller towns and villages.

The search for a husband at a younger age is not really a thing anymore. Becoming more of a folkloric event, the holiday today is an opportunity to gently mock young, single ladies under the age of 25 and watch them dress in ridiculously fancy hats.

Celebrating St. Catherine’s Day is a fun way to try on crazy headdresses and embarrass your single female friends.

How about you? Were you aware of Saint Catherine's Day? Have you ever seen it celebrated? Have you taken part? Do tell!

Like it? PIN it!

older woman in green hat and sunglasseswoman in saint catherine's day hatyoung woman in white hat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Amber Myers says:

    I hadn’t heard of this day before. It sounds pretty cool. I’d love to be in France for this.

  2. Wow how nice! I’ve never heard of this before and I bet all the ladies look very pretty in their hats! So much to learn about France!

  3. Anna Elle Liz says:

    This is so interesting! I vaguely remember learning about this during my French studies but loved reading up on it from your post! The way the prayer got more and more simple in wants for a man as the women aged are hysterical. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Terri Steffes says:

    I got married young so I wouldn’t have gotten to ever celebrate. Hmmm. Love those hats though.

  5. Alita Pacio says:

    Its great to learn more about St. Catherine’s Day. I haven’t participated in any celebrations but I would love to.

  6. So much more to learn about this. I would love to take part in it too.

  7. Richelle Milar says:

    This is really interesting! I’ve never heard of this before, it sounds really amazing!