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

Epiphany 2016 8
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.

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

apple picking 5
apple picking 6
apple picking 7
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


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, 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.1

Why ‘Ember’?

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.”2  It’s also possible that the term could be derived from the ancient Saxon language, where Emb, or embe, means a “course” or “circuit.”3

Like a circuit, 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.4 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 fourth century, provides an excellent model for Embertide contemplation. He writes,5

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.

Ember Days Around the Year

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: fasting Note 1, 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.

NOTES
Note 1 Fasting provides an opportunity to consider God’s gifts and how to use them in moderation. For Catholics, 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
1 “Ember Days, Rogations Days, and Station Churches,” Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church, www.holytrinitygerman.org, 5/13/15
2 Ibid.
3 “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
4 Ibid.
5 “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.

feeding wild birds

feeding wild birds

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.
—Psalm 50:11

When the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger . . . so says my father-in-law, quoting an old New England saying. The brutal chill of winter can be hard on us, but it is much harder on our feathered (and furry) friends that don’t have the comfort of a warm stove as temperatures drop. One way to help the wild birds and other creatures that live in or near your yard is to make sure they have enough to eat, which will help them to withstand the cold. It is fairly easy and inexpensive to build a simple bird feeder, and really only requires a little bit of diligence to keep the feeding areas free of snow, and make sure the feeders are re-stocked when the seeds are running low—my local “customers,” as we call them, go through a few cups of seeds per day.

feedthebirdscollage

Images copyright (from left): Ilse Schmid; Jenny Nystrom; Rie Cranmer; Gerda Muller; Eloise Wilkin.

Beyond the obvious pleasure of bird-watching, there are many good reasons for feeding wild birds, especially in winter. The Humane Society of the United States states: “Bird feeding is most helpful at times of when birds need the most energy, such as during temperature extremes, migration, and in late winter or early spring, when natural seed sources are depleted.”

helpful adaptations

I don’t know about you, but in the deep, dark days of winter I always wonder how those little creatures stay alive, especially here in New England where temperatures can get very, very cold. The answer involves a variety of factors: Birds have a higher metabolism than humans, and thus their bodies run at a higher temperature; many species grow special feathers that act as a sort of down blanket in the winter, holding heat close to their bodies; they fluff, tuck, and sun themselves, but they also spend a lot of time shivering. This last bit is one of the reasons why feeding birds is so important—if they don’t have enough food, they won’t have enough energy to do the things they need to do to keep themselves warm.

Brave little fighters, go on with your battle–
Here is a friend who will welcome you all!
Fly to my window–I’ll feed every comer–
Hail to the comrades that constancy show
Loving and loyal, in winter and summer–
With us, alike, in the heat and the snow!

—From “Winter Birds” by Andrew Downing

what birds eat

There are lots of possibilities to explore in regards to feeding wild birds, but what we chose to do this year was to hang three very simple wooden birdfeeders (I used this pattern), one in the front of the house, and two in the back, as well as to shovel out a circular area in the backyard in which to scatter seeds, and the occasional peanut. Blue jays love peanuts. Of course, we have plenty of squirrels that come along with the birds, but I really don’t mind. I know they need to eat, too. Because we hung one of our feeders right outside the window of our house, we are able to spend many happy hours watching the birds eat; we have a wonderful time trying to identify all of the different species. Having different types of feeding locations helps us to attract a wide variety, from mourning doves (who feed on the ground) to finches, nuthatches, and titmice (who like to eat from feeders). In the future, I would love to add a bird table for the species that want to be somewhere in between.

    Good for Birds to Eat:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Thistle Seed
  • Millet
  • Fruit
  • Seed Mixes formulated for Wild Birds
  • Roasted Peanuts
    Not Good for Birds to Eat:

  • Raw Peanuts: They inhibit protein absorption in birds and small mammals.
  • “People Food”: Items like bread and table scraps provide almost no nutritional value to birds, and moldy bread can make birds sick.

Here are some pictures I have taken of our feathered (and furry) friends.