Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I learned at a young age that it is such a treasure trove of tradition, full of wonderful reasons and seasons to celebrate. With so many saints and martyrs to honor and feasts on nearly every calendar day, there’s hardly a day we couldn’t be feasting on fine foods. Well, except for the season of Lent which is a penitential season, but that lends itself to 40 days of much needed prayer and penance that our body and soul also need.
Sure, most of us aren’t going to know off the top of our head what day the church celebrates Sts. Cosmas and Damian. We may also arrive at Mass on the Sunday after Easter and know that it’s Divine Mercy Sunday, but find ourselves at a loss knowing how to observe the day with our family.
Maybe you aren’t quite sure how to dive into the liturgical seasons, so perhaps choosing a certain feast would suffice.
Do you have a favorite saint or maybe a saint whose feast day has always been special to you for a reason? Start with that and go from there. How about baptismal dates? Do you know the date that you or your child were baptized? If you do, an easy way to honor that special day would be to light your baptism candle and say a short prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of your faith.
We started out with simple, but memorable ways to draw attention to days that are significant and special to our family. We have found that they’ve left a lasting imprint on our children. When our two older kids were younger, we chose to celebrate Mary’s days (Immaculate Conception, Assumption, her birthday, etc.) by declaring them as ‘Blue Day’. Since Mary is generally associated with the color blue, on those days the kids would try to wear as much blue colored clothing as they could to remember Mary’s day. In recent years we’ve latched on to our tradition of making pretzels (from a bag mix, of course) as a family on Good Friday. Keeping with the simplicity of meals and observance of abstinence on that day, we eat the pretzels as our lunch.
I’d have to say that the favorite days to feast in our house is for each member’s name day. We started this one young. Those days are on our calendar and remain as special as their birthdays. These are the days that commemorate the saint they are named after, either first or middle name if their first name does not have a saint. Depending on your name, sometimes this means you get be creative. Our firstborn, Lily, celebrates on the feast of St. Kateri of Tekakwitha, because Kateri is known as the ‘Lily of the Mohawks’. My husband who bears no saint name, has chosen to declare his name day on the feast of Pope St. John Paul, one of his favorite saints. My saint day is based on my confirmation name, Philomena. We’ve made these days unique in many ways, but mainly in that the member whose name day it is gets to chose what type of treat we’ll all share after supper that evening. Sometimes it’s homemade cupcakes or a cake, and other times it’s a stop at an ice cream shop or treat that can be picked up at a drive thru. Whatever it is, it’s special to them and it’s their choice. Much like their birthday, that child knows that day is very special and occasionally their day may even include an outing as a family.
Don’t feel bound by what our family does. Do what’s right for you and your family and don’t be afraid to dive into the liturgical seasons. Remember, keep it simple. There’s no need for grand plans that are difficult to execute. You don’t need to start off by baking a cake from scratch and decorating it to look like a dragon on the feast of St. George (but you could if you were really ambitious!). You may start by obtaining a simple book of the saints and reading their story on their feast day with your children or grandchildren. You may find that making a particular feast special with ice cream and simple prayers is how your family learns more about their rich faith and makes a lasting memory.
Just in case you’re still wondering, you can commemorate martyrs Cosmas and Damian next year on September 26. And Divine Mercy Sunday? How about praying the Divine Mercy chaplet and afterward making Divine Mercy Sundaes topped with whipped cream and red and blue sugar sprinkles to imitate the rays coming from Jesus’ heart depicted in the Divine Mercy image.
Whatever you choose to do, Happy Feasting!