On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Feasting on Feast Days

Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We've never celebrated it before, but a Mexican meal was requested by my son, so we did it up right. We had enchiladas, tacos (made authentically -no packaged shells or seasoning packets here!), frijoles, and guacamole. We didn't have margaritas, but maybe next year.

It all fell in line with my philosophy of feasting on feast days. Those are special types of food that we certainly wouldn't eat every day. Not only are they more calorie laden (although in reasonable portions not too bad) than our usual fare, but they are more complicated than our usual fare as well. However, feasting on Mexican food gave us an opportunity to talk about the reason for the feast and to remember the miracle of Guadalupe.

Feasting on feast days does this. It sets the time apart to remember an event and or a person that is worthy of remembering and sharing with others. We are people with bodies and one of the best ways of helping each other to remember is by connecting the event with particular foods. Then each year as we eat the traditional foods we are reminded of the particular memories. Jews do this at Passover, at Purim, at Succoth, at Chanukah. In the Protestant home I grew up in such feasts were limited to Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and New Years Day and there seemed to be no particular reason for the particular foods (other than the Thanksgiving ones). Through the years I've attempted to add more and more of the traditional Christian feasts back into our lives. So we now always have Speculas on St Nicholas Day, we have special foods at Christmas, we have special foods on Good Friday, on St. Joseph's Day, on Easter, etc.

Today is the Feast of St. Lucy. Our only and eldest daughter is not here to serve us St. Lucy's bread in bed, so I guess we'll have St. St. Lucy's bread this evening at dinner. There are a number of legends surrounding St. Lucy, but what is clear is that she was a martyr during the reign of Diocletian. She is the patron saint for blind people. Traditionally in Scandinavian countries the eldest daughter brings a buns or cakes to the members of the family on the morning of St. Lucy's Day wearing a wreath on her head with burning candles.

A good resource of some of the feast days of Christian tradition and the foods associated with them is A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz. It has the recipe I use for Speculas as well as the recipe I use for plum pudding at Christmas. It also describes a rather different way of making a mince pie among other things. I recommend it for families who are beginning to celebrate Christian feasts and who are attempting to frame their lives according to Christian seasons rather than the whims of the marketplace. This attempt needn't be limited to the Catholics and Orthodox either. I bought and began using Vitz's book when I was still a Protestant. There are some elements of the liturgical year that are shared by all Christians and her book is an excellent resource for those feast days and fast days as well as a resource for the more specifically Catholic feasts, although she didn't have specific recipes for yesterday! It's also a good resource for looking at other cultures' approaches to Christmas and Easter celebrations. There's even a recipe for Latkes for Chanukah! It also has some great Christmas cookie recipes. It's a great book for homeschooling families.

"Why is any day better than another, when all the daylight in the year is from the sun? By the Lord's decision they were hallowed and distinguished, and he appointed the different seasons and feasts; some of them he exalted and hallowed, and some of them he made ordinary days." Sirach 33:7-9

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