St. George’s Day

St. George’s Day
Detail from Saint George and the Dragon by Jacopo Tintoretto (16th Cent)

So on this day let’s celebrate
England’s valleys full of light,
The green fire of the landscape
Lakes shivering with delight


—from “The True Dragon” by Brian Patten

The Feast of Saint George is celebrated in Western countries on April 23rd each year. As the patron saint of their country, George is particularly popular with the English (and those anglophiles among us who love their culture, history, and “valleys full of light”). Though nothing certain is known about George’s life, there are some “facts” that are generally accepted. St. George was born in the third century A.D. in Cappodocia (modern-day Turkey). Raised in a Christian home, George joined the Roman army and served in the guard of the Emperor Diocletian. When confronted by the emperor and asked to renounce his faith, he refused. He was subsequently imprisoned, tortured, and executed in Lydda, Palestine on 23 April 303 A.D.

The most popular legend connected to the life of St. George is his defeat of an evil dragon that was terrorizing the countryside. This story became wildly popular in England, mostly due to the publication in the fifteenth century of a book called The Golden Legend. George’s signature look—a suit of armor and white shield emblazoned with a red cross—grew out of this legend. The romantic image of St. George rescuing a fair maiden from a terrifying monster is in line with the medieval masculine ideal, the miles Christi or “knight of Christ.” Though obviously not an entirely factual account of a true historic event, the legend of St. George and the dragon has deep roots in Christian theology: Christ (the knight victorious) triumphs over the horrors of evil.

At our house, we celebrate St. George’s Day with an English-style tea party and a reading of St. George and the Dragon, written by Margaret Hodges and beautifully illustrated by Tina Schart Hyman. We like to make Cream Tea scones and sip Twinings’ Prince of Wales tea. We serve everything on beautiful English china I got at a second-hand store. As always, I’d like to stress that celebrating the Christian year should be fun, meaningful, and strengthen our connection to God—no need to get stressed or break the budget. The beauty is in the mess.

SELECTED SOURCES
“Saint George,” BBC Religions, www.bbc.co.uk/religion
“Who is St. George,” St. George’s Basilica, www.StGeorge.org.mt

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st george collage
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st george slider



Celebrate George and England with some tasty scones!

Cream Tea Scones
adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12 scones

Ingredients:
3 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
additional heavy cream, for brushing on scones
additional sugar, for topping

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
2. Sprinkle the vanilla over the dry ingredients, then drizzle in the cream, tossing and stirring gently all the while and adding just enough to make a cohesive dough. There shouldn’t be any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, but the dough shouldn’t be particularly sticky, either.
3. Divide the dough in half, and gently pat each half into a 5 1/2″ circle about 3/4″ thick.
4. Brush each circle with heavy cream, and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
5. Place the two circles of dough on the baking sheet, and cut each into 6 wedges. Pull the wedges apart a bit, leaving them in a circular pattern with about 1″ space between each wedge.
6. Bake scones for about 15 minutes, until starting to brown and baked all the way through.

Serve warm, split and spread with a bit of sweet butter and jam or preserves.

Gardening with Children

Gardening with Children

8 Ask the plants of the earth,and they will teach you; 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.

—Job 12:8-10

Gardening is a wonderful activity for children that can last from early spring until late summer, even here in the frosty Northeast. Before the snow even begins to melt, we’re already excitedly poring over our seed and garden supply catalogs, trying to decide what tasty veggies we will plant this year.

garden 2014 // the beginning 5

While gardening is one of my favorite warm-weather activities, I just want to note that this page is not meant to be taken as expert advice about growing a garden—there are so many resources for that already, and I am still a beginning gardener, myself. However, I thought it might be nice to touch on some of the ways that children can play a role in planning, nurturing, and enjoying a family garden.

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We’ve had success creating gardens straight from seed and also with started plants. I think both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. Starting from seed allows children the opportunity to really understand the life cycle of plants, which is wonderful, but there is a lot of waiting involved and not everything you plant will be successful—we constructed a beautiful pea and bean teepee last year that really didn’t thrive and that was disappointing to all of us. On the other hand, using started plants generally guarantees a higher rate of success, and there’s a feeling of almost instant gratification, especially with fast-growers like zucchini! The downside is that buying started plants skips one whole stage of the plant life cycle, and sometimes the plants aren’t as healthy as one would hope. Always buy your seeds and started plants from reputable growers.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?
Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.

—Henry David Thoreau

garden 2014 // the beginning 6

Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun, so it’s important to take some time to find the right spot for planting. I highly recommend using containers and/or raised beds to start, as they are so much easier to manage (think: less weeding), and you have a lot more control over growing conditions. We actually have two raised beds in our front yard because that’s the sunniest spot—they’re off to one side, so they’re not too obtrusive. We’re planning to add another 1/2-sized bed this year just for our youngest. He’ll have a space all his own to tend, and I think that will be really special for him.

garden 2014 // week one 1

If you’re new to gardening, start with some tried-and-true favorites like herbs (basil is a good one to try) or greens like kale and swiss chard—they’re almost impossible to kill, and they’ll keep growing until you rip them out in the fall. If you find your greens are really prolific, you can always make smoothies with the surplus! My favorite recipe is very simple: cube a fresh pineapple, divide into four servings, and freeze in Ziploc baggies. When you’re ready to make a smoothie, blend one serving of frozen pineapple with a peeled banana and two handfuls of greens; add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water until smoothie is desired consistency. Kids love these smoothies, even when made with strongly-flavored kale.

smoothie collage

I will reiterate that there are many, many resources out there for beginning gardeners, and it can be a lot to weed through (pun intended). I recommend starting with a university extension—this excellent utility will help you find your local office. I always print out the planting schedule from my extension, which gives me a rough timeline for getting my plants in the ground, and ensures I won’t end up planting too early or too late.

26 // 52 // Zane

Besides selecting what to plant, there are many ways that children can help with the family garden. With supervision, they can excel at weeding, watering, and harvesting, to name a few of the many tasks that need doing throughout the growing season. We often have itinerant helpers (neighborhood kids) who stop by to assist and to enjoy a ripe tomato or two—depending on the circumstances, planting a garden can be a community affair, and even a form of ministry.

What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables
and herbs and pleasure? Nothing there but delights.

—William Lawson

garden week 3 collage

My final words of advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself if things go all “pear-shaped,” as the Brits say. Gardening can be very rewarding, and also very frustrating. Sometimes plants die, or get covered in downy mildew, or have blight, and that’s all part of the experience. There are ways to prevent these things, but the solutions can be expensive and/or involve chemicals you don’t really want your family to ingest. Sometimes you take what you get, and you do what you can with it (to quote my parents). And, for added reassurance, I will confess that I’ve had tomato plants with nothing left but yellowing stalks and a handful of shriveled, brown leaves and yet they still produced delicious fruit. Things don’t have to be pretty to be tasty!

For more inspiration, visit the “Gardening for Children” section of my recommended reading page. You can also read my posts in the “Our Garden” series on my personal blog.

Happy gardening, friends!

Candlemas

Candlemas

Raphael_Presentation_in_the_Temple

Presentation in the Temple by Raphael

Candlemas is the common name for a Christian holy day that commemorates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary.[i] At the time of Jesus’ birth, Jewish tradition dictated that on the fortieth day after giving birth a woman would go to the temple to present her child to the Lord.[ii] Forty days from Christmas day brings us to February 2nd, the day on which Christians celebrate the occasion of the Holy Family’s visit to the temple in Jerusalem for the presentation of the Christ Child.[iii]

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

—1 John 1:5

There is no consensus among historians regarding the exact origins of this feast day, though there are a few theories. It’s possible that the Roman Catholic Church instituted the celebration of Candlemas sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries; others believe that Candlemas is the result of the Church’s efforts to Christianize various pagan celebrations that took place during the month of February.[iv] Regardless of its murky origins, one can imagine why the first public presentation of Jesus, who is called The Light of the World, might come to be associated with the lighting of candles.[v]

In earlier times, Candlemas was seen as the official end of the Christmas season, which lasted much longer than it does today. Even as recently as the late nineteenth century it was common not to remove the Christmas greenery until Candlemas, at which time it was traditionally burned in the family fireplace.[vi]

Other Candlemas traditions naturally arose over the centuries, perhaps the most well-known being the “blessing of the candles.”  We can take a closer look at this tradition by becoming acquainted with a branch from my very own family tree.  My mother’s family traces its roots to the French colony of Acadie, located in Atlantic Canada and comprising such places as New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.[vii]  In fact, my maternal line (my mother’s mother’s mother…etc.) recedes back through time to a woman named Catherine LeJeune who lived in Port Royal, Acadie (now Annapolis, Nova Scotia) in the mid-17th Century.[viii]

Like her fellow Acadians, my ancestor Catherine LeJeune was a Roman Catholic from France and she would, no doubt, have been quite familiar with Candlemas. Historical documents show that the annual blessing of the candles in Acadie, during which time families would bring their year’s supply of candles to be blessed by their parish priest, goes back several hundred years. For example, in 1693 Joseph Robineau de Villebon, a commanding officer in the Acadian colony, delivered sixty candles to Beaubassin (in Nova Scotia) on behalf of the inhabits of the parish to be blessed by their priest on Candlemas morning.[ix]

In Acadie, the blessed candles were used for many purposes throughout the year: To protect the house, to use when the priest came to a home to bring communion to the sick, or to burn while the family kept vigil over the body of a loved one who had died. Some midwives would light a blessed candle during a difficult birth, and Acadian fishermen sometimes kept a blessed candle on their boat to light during stormy weather.[x] The blessing of the candles was preserved in Acadian parishes until very recently.[xi]

Another Acadian tradition that took place on Candlemas was the door-to-door collection of food to be used for a community meal later in the day. Anyone with a large enough house could host the party. This activity was not only entertaining for all involved, but it was also an act of charity—any food that was left over after the party was given to the poor. In some villages the collection of food was done almost exclusively for the purpose of providing for the sick, the widows, and the poor.[xii]

Nous sommes les gens de la Chand’leur
Allez-vous nous donner d’la fleur?
(We are the Candlemas people,
Are you going to give us any flour?)

—from Arsenault’s “Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day”

I invite you to celebrate Candlemas on February 2nd—perhaps with a candle-making activity.  I also encourage you to make a donation to your local food shelf, in the spirit of the Acadian Candlemas collections of long ago.

You might also enjoy this traditional Acadian recipe, traditionally eaten on Candlemas day.

Crêpes à la Neige (Pancakes with Snow)
adapted from Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day by Georges Arsenault, 2012

Ingredients:
1 c flour
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 c fresh, hard-packed snow
1/4 c vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Heat a griddle or large pan on medium heat.
2. Mix all the ingredients together to make a smooth dough (it will be very liquid, not fluffy like regular pancakes).
3. Grease the griddle or pan with butter. Drop tablespoons of batter onto the griddle and fry on medium heat until edges are cooked and bubbles form on top.
4. Flip over and fry until golden brown. Serve with molasses or grated maple sugar.


SELECTED SOURCES
[i] Arsenault, George, Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada: Acorn Press, 2012, 15.
[ii] Breathnach, Sarah, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990, 61.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Arsenault, 15.
[v] Powers, Mala, Follow the Year, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985, 58.
[vi] Breathnach, 61.
[vii] Arsenault, 8.
[viii] Roostan, Wendy Pitre, “Family of Francois Savoie & Catherine Lejeune,” 01 Mar 2014.
[ix] Arsenault, 15.
[x] Arsenault, 19.
[xi] Arsenault, 16.
[xii] Arsenault, 45-46.

Epiphany

Epiphany

epiphany 2013

The 6th of January is the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord, also called Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night in some places. The word “epiphany” is derived from the Greek word Ἐπιφάνεια, (Epiphaneia), which means “manifestation.” The etymology of the word points to its origins in the Eastern Church, and it was historically a celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, varying locally in its observance of different events from Jesus’s childhood. The first mention of a celebration called Epiphany comes from the writing of the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who noted in 361 A.D. that it was considered Christ’s Birthday. In the Western Church a particular focus on the visitation of the Magi, also known as the Three Kings or Wise Men, has developed over the years.

Celebrate with Family and Friends

My mother-in-law is a retired high school French teacher, and has introduced many French traditions to our family. The French celebrated Epiphany with great fervor until the French Revolution, when anything religious or related to the monarchy fell out of favor or was outright banned. Despite no longer being a public holiday, many in France still celebrate Epiphany with the Gallete des Rois or Kings’ Cake.

We always celebrate Epiphany with my in-laws. My mother-in-law cooks several dishes inspired by the flavors of the Middle East. We also have gingerbread cupcakes instead of a cake. For fun, my mother-in-law bakes a bean into one of them. Whoever finds the bean is crowned king or queen, and gets to wear the special tinfoil crown. It’s always a joy to be the one to discover the bean. The Kings also bring little gifts wrapped up in brown paper–often books–that are hidden throughout the house for the children to find.

VIVE LE ROI – the one, true king, Jesus Christ!

SELECTED SOURCES
“The Catholic Encyclopedia,” NewAdvent.org
“Origins of the Epiphany,” TravelFranceOnline.com

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Epiphany 2016 collage
Epiphany 2016 7

Menu for the Feast of the Epiphany

Recipes courtesy of my mother-in-law, Sharon Wilson.

Tabouli

Ingredients:
1 c bulgur
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c boiling water

1/3 c lemon juice
1/3 c olive oil

3/4 red onion, diced
5 plum tomatoes, diced
1 European cucumber, diced
3 cups fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:
Pour boiling water over bulgur and salt. Cover and let sit for thirty minutes. Add olive oil and lemon juice, and refrigerate until chilled. Finally, add the onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley just before serving.


Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Ingredient & Directions:
Sauté in 8 quart pot for three minutes:
2 onions, chopped
2 tsp oil
2 Tbsp bottled ginger
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp curry powder

Add to pot and simmer for two minutes:
2 cans chickpeas
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained

Add to pot, and cook for one minute or until wilted:
8 c fresh spinach
1/2 tsp salt

Serve over basmati rice and pita bread.


Gingerbread Cupcakes des Rois
adapted from Family Circle Light & Easy Meals(1996)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/3 c packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c light molasses
1/4 c applesauce
1/4 c milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 egg whites
1 whole egg

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line twelve 3.5-inch muffin pan cups with cupcake liners. Stir together flour, sugar, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses, applesauce, milk, oil, egg whites, and egg in another bowl. Fold in flour mixture until just moistened and spoon batter into muffin cups–don’t forget to put a bean into one of them! Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Advent Embertide

Advent Embertide

advent 3

Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.


— Old English Rhyme

When asked to name times during the year that are of great importance to Christians, most people would suggest Christmas and Easter; not many of them would say “Ember Days.” But, in fact, Ember Days are an ancient tradition that predates Christmas, Advent, and many other Christian celebrations, and can be traced all the way back to the time of the Hebrew Scriptures, when a fast of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months was prescribed. During Jesus’s time there was also a Jewish custom of fasting every Tuesday and Thursday of the week. The first Christians carried on these two traditions, but chose to fast instead on Wednesday and Friday, the day Jesus was betrayed and the day he died, respectively.i

There are several different explanations for the origins of the name “Ember Days.” Some say it is a corruption of the Latin name Quatuor Temporum, which means “Four Times” or “Four Seasons.”ii It’s also possible that the term could be derived from the ancient Saxon language, where Emb, or embe, means a “course” or “circuit.”iii The Ember Days are a quarterly series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, taking place at the beginning of each natural season, that are set aside as a time of fasting and prayer: Michaelmas Embertide in September, signaling the beginning of autumn; Advent Embertide in December, ushering in the winter season; Lenten Embertide, which arrives in spring; and Whit Embertide comes at the start of the summer season.iv These three days each season provide the faithful with an opportunity to contemplate the wonder of God through His creation – that is, the natural world – and to engage in self-reflection. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the 4th Century CE, provides an excellent model for Embertide contemplation. He writes,v

If any man attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth. Thou dwellest on the earth, and the limit of this earth which is thy dwelling thou knowest not: How then shalt thou be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator? Thou beholdest the stars, but their Maker thou beholdest not: Count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names.

In addition to their associations with the changing seasons, Ember Days also correspond to other feasts during the Christian Year. Michaelmas Embertide follows the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th); Advent Embertide comes on the heels of St. Lucy’s Day (December 13th); Lenten Embertide is paired, of course, with the start of Lent; and Whit Embertide, as its name suggests, is associated with Whitsunday (Pentecost). By observing the Ember Days at the beginning of each season, we are retrieving this ancient aspect of our ecclesiastical history, which is said to have originated with the Apostles themselves, as well as our shared cultural history. Even those who are not practicing Christians can appreciate the historical significance of the Ember Days—anyone with European roots will be in good company with their ancestors, for whom these four weeks during the year were of great importance. So, let’s take this opportunity to pick up where the collective “we” left off. Let’s spend a little bit of time: fasting1, using our skills or resources for the benefit of others, and contemplating God and His creation (which was placed in the care of our most distant ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden—so the story goes).

I’ve put together a little booklet of readings that I hope you might enjoy—mostly poetry, and some Bible verses—called Readings for Advent Embertide (click on title to download). Please feel free to share this post and/or my booklet, non-commercial use only. Thank you.


NOTES
1 Fasting provides an opportunity to consider God’s gifts and how to use them in moderation. Fasting on Ember Days means one regular meal per day (two smaller meals in morning and evening, no snacks) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with the addition of abstaining from meat on Friday.

SELECTED SOURCES
i “Ember Days, Rogations Days, and Station Churches,” Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church, www.holytrinitygerman.org, 5/13/15
ii Ibid.
iii “Ember Days,” an excerpt from A Companion for the Book of Common Prayer by John Henry Hobart, Anglican Bible & Book Society, www.anglicanbible.org, 9/19/12
iv Ibid.
v “Ember Days” by Tracy Tucciarone, Fish Eaters, www.fisheaters.com, 7/30/06

Advent Season

Advent Season

Advent is a beautiful season in the liturgical year, but it is often overshadowed by the busyness of the secular Christmas season. Beginning at the end of November or beginning of December, depending on the year, the four weeks of Advent help us to prepare, spiritually, for a celebration of the birth of our Savior at Christmas. Over the years I’ve developed some ways to engage with this introspective time of the Church year that make it more meaningful for me and my family. Below you will find some of these traditions—maybe one or more of them will enrich your own Advent practices.


St. Martin’s Lent
St. Nicholas, an Advent Saint
Advent Embertide
Advent Crafts for Children

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating Advent, visit my Pinterest board!



Apple Picking

Apple Picking

Apple picking in early autumn is a quintessential New England activity. I love to take my children out in the early morning, when the air still has a bit of a chill, and wander through the orchard. While the little ones tend to go for quantity, I like to take my time and select the most delicious-looking specimens. The ride home is silent but for the crunching of little teeth on ripe, juicy fruits. And, of course, there will be lots of homemade treats to bake—apple crisp, applesauce, and pie to name a few—and don’t forget the cider! (Our favorite apple crisp recipe is at the end of this post.)

apple picking 2
apple picking 3

11And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. — Genesis 1:12

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apple picking 6
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apple picking 11

Our Favorite Apple Crisp Recipe (adapted from Betty Crocker)

Ingredients:
4 medium apples, sliced about 4 cups total
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
whipped ream or ice cream, optional

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375° F. Grease the bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with butter.
2. Spread the apples in the pan.
3. In a medium bowl, stir the remaining ingredients until well mixed, and then sprinkle the mixture over the apples.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the apples are tender. Top with whipped cream or ice cream!

Michaelmas Embertide

Michaelmas Embertide

apple picking 9

Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.


—Old English Rhyme

When asked to name times during the year that are of great importance to Christians, most people would suggest Christmas and Easter; not many of them would say “Ember Days.” But, in fact, Ember Days are an ancient tradition that predates Christmas, Advent, and many other Christian celebrations, and can be traced all the way back to the time of the Hebrew Scriptures, when a fast of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months was prescribed. During Jesus’s time there was also a Jewish custom of fasting every Tuesday and Thursday of the week.  The first Christians carried on these two traditions, but chose to fast instead on Wednesday and Friday, the day Jesus was betrayed and the day he died, respectively.i

There are several different explanations for the origins of the name “Ember Days.” Some say it is a corruption of the Latin name Quatuor Temporum, which means “Four Times” or “Four Seasons.”ii  It’s also possible that the term could be derived from the ancient Saxon language, where Emb, or embe, means a “course” or “circuit.”iii The Ember Days are a quarterly series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, taking place at the beginning of each natural season, that are set aside as a time of fasting and prayer: Michaelmas Embertide in September, signaling the beginning of autumn; Advent Embertide in December, ushering in the winter season; Lenten Embertide, which arrives in spring; and Whit Embertide comes at the start of the summer season.iv These three days each season provide the faithful with an opportunity to contemplate the wonder of God through His creation – that is, the natural world – and to engage in self-reflection. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the 4th Century CE, provides an excellent model for Embertide contemplation. He writes,v

If any man attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth. Thou dwellest on the earth, and the limit of this earth which is thy dwelling thou knowest not: How then shalt thou be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator? Thou beholdest the stars, but their Maker thou beholdest not: Count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names.

In addition to their associations with the changing seasons, Ember Days also correspond to other feasts during the Christian Year. Michaelmas Embertide follows the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th); Advent Embertide comes on the heels of St. Lucy’s Day (December 13th); Lenten Embertide is paired, of course, with the start of Lent; and Whit Embertide, as its name suggests, is associated with Whitsunday (Pentecost). By observing the Ember Days at the beginning of each season, we are retrieving this ancient aspect of our ecclesiastical history, which is said to have originated with the Apostles themselves, as well as our shared cultural history. Even those who are not practicing Christians can appreciate the historical significance of the Ember Days—anyone with European roots will be in good company with their ancestors, for whom these four weeks during the year were of great importance. So, let’s take this opportunity to pick up where the collective “we” left off. Let’s spend a little bit of time: fasting1, using our skills or resources for the benefit of others, and contemplating God and His creation (which was placed in the care of our most distant ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden—so the story goes).

I’ve put together a little booklet of readings that I hope you might enjoy—mostly poetry, and some Bible verses—called Readings for Michaelmas Embertide (click on title to download). Please feel free to share this post and/or my booklet, non-commercial use only. Thank you.


NOTES
1 Fasting provides an opportunity to consider God’s gifts and how to use them in moderation.  Fasting on Ember Days means one regular meal per day (two smaller meals in morning and evening, no snacks) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with the addition of abstaining from meat on Friday.

SELECTED SOURCES
i “Ember Days, Rogations Days, and Station Churches,” Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church, www.holytrinitygerman.org, 5/13/15
ii Ibid.
iii “Ember Days,” an excerpt from A Companion for the Book of Common Prayer by John Henry Hobart, Anglican Bible & Book Society, www.anglicanbible.org, 9/19/12
iv Ibid.
v “Ember Days” by Tracy Tucciarone, Fish Eaters, www.fisheaters.com, 7/30/06

St. Brigid’s Day

St. Brigid’s Day
Detail from stained glass image of St. Brigid in Houverath, Germany

Faoi bhrat bhríde sinn
(we are under the cloak of Brigid)

Saint Brigid’s Day takes place each year on February 1st. St. Brigid was born in Ireland about 450 A.D. She and her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom Brigid maintained a close friendship. In her adult life she started many convents and became the first Abbess of Ireland. She also founded a school of art at which many famous illuminated manuscripts were created, including the Book of Kildare. Many miracles are attributed to St. Brigid.

For our celebration we make St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock, and sometimes we also make some St. Brigid’s Crosses. This is such an easy craft—even a three year old can do it! I used this tutorial. We also read a lovely book called Brigid’s Cloak, written by Bryce Milligan with watercolor pictures by Helen Cann. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Brigid’s overwhelming generosity toward those in need, and the origins of her miraculous cloak. The bannock takes virtually no time to prepare, and the crosses are a nice afternoon craft for the kids. Feasts and festivals don’t have to involve an overwhelming amount of work—little celebrations can be just as meaningful as big ones.

st. brigid 1
st. brigid 2
st. brigid collage
st. brigid 3

For more ideas and inspiration for celebrating St. Brigid’s Day, visit my Pinterest board!



Celebrate Brigid with a tasty snack!

St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock, adapted from a recipe by Tressabelle

Ingredients:
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup honey
2 cups white or wheat flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk**

*Whole wheat flour makes a very dense bannock.
**Buttermilk can be made using any cow’s milk of your choice and a tablespoon of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar per cup of buttermilk required. Add the juice or vinegar first, and then fill to the desired measuring line.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream butter and honey together.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir into the butter-honey mixture.
3. Add buttermilk until a dough forms (I need a little over 1/4 cup).
4. Roll into a ball and flatten onto a greased cookie sheet; cut a cross into the top with a knife.
5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.