Feast of St. Lucy, December 13th
January 4, 2012

by Haley

Even before I became Catholic I’ve always loved St. Lucy’s Day. The Feast of St. Lucy (whose name means ‘light’) takes place during the darkest time of the year and is a bright spot during the dark, cold days of Advent. This brave saint was an early 4th century martyr from Sicily. When St. Lucy refused to wed a pagan and, desiring to remain a virgin, gave away her dowry to the poor, the man who wanted to marry her turned her in for being a Christian. Her eyes were plucked out and yet God restored her sight miraculously (this is why she is often portrayed holding her eyes on a plate and why she is the patron saint of the blind). When her torturers tried to burn her, her body would not burn and when they attempted to drag her to a brothel, her body was immovable. She was finally martyred when stabbed in the throat.

We named our baby girl after St. Lucy because of her courage, purity, and love for Christ. Also our baby is really cute:

See? Anyhow. Daniel made a Santa Lucia Bread Crown, a traditional Swedish way to celebrate St. Lucy’s Day. He modified a recipe from Cooking with the Saints which turned out just fine, but he says that next year he will just do a similar style braided crown using cinnamon roll dough. This recipe wasn’t as sweet and moist as it could have been.

Santa Lucia Crown

Crown Ingredients:

1/2 c. warm water

2 tsp. dry yeast

1/2 c warm milk

1/2 c sugar

4 TBSP softened butter

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp each of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg

4. c. flour

3 eggs

Icing Ingredients

1 c. powdered sugar

4 tsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour 1/4 of the warm water into a large bowl. Add yeast and stir until dissolved. Add the other 1/4 cup of water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, spices, and 2 cups of the flour and blend. Add 2 eggs and remaining flour.

Knead on floured surface approx 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl and cover until it doubled in size (approx. 1 hr).

Punch down dough and remove to floured surface. Separate dough for top of crown (1/3) and the larger bottom of crown (2/3). Divide the 2/3 of dough into 3 pieces, roll them, and braid into a rope, form circle and pinch ends to seal. Set on greased baking sheet. Repeat braiding with the remaining 1/3 of dough. Cover braids and let rise 1 hour, or until they double.

Beat remaining egg and brush onto bread. Bake at 375 for 15 min and remove smaller braid. Cover larger braid in foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

Combine ingredients for icing and ice the cooled braids after stacking them.

Beware that sneaky toddlers don’t stick their fingers in the icing.

 

The Beginning
November 30, 2010

And so, it begins again. The Christian year began last Sunday, four Sundays before Christmas. We wait now, with prayer and fasting, until we celebrate Christmas, a 12 day feast. For those of us who did not grow up participating in the season of Advent, the practice is a major shift from the cultural norm. For most people, the season of Christmas begins immediately after Thanksgiving and fizzles out around mid-afternoon on December 25, just around the time when Christians were traditionally just getting things going.

Although this will be our first Advent since being confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church last Easter, it will not be the first time my wife and I have celebrated the season. The “liturgically minded” Baptist church we attended in Waco made a valiant attempt to mark the times of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Holy Week with appropriate colors and trimmings as well as adaptations of traditional services (think solemnly shared goblets of grape juice for Maundy Thursday). However, even liturgical Baptists are still a little nervous about celebrating the Saints, especially Mary, and so the calendar was still rather sparsely filled.

As my wife and I moved towards Catholicism, we also moved towards a more complete celebration of the Christian year. Starting with Michaelmas 2009, we tried to find traditional ways to celebrate the major feasts of the Church. This has turned out to be more difficult than we thought. Part of the difficulty is that we do not live in a homogeneous Christian culture with ancient traditions, a common food culture, or a close connection to the agricultural systems that sustain us.

Take Michaelmas, for example, which has long been an important holiday in Britain (my wife was actually familiar with this feast from its mention in Jane Austen’s novels). The British celebrate the feast of St. Michael the Archangel with carrots, blackberries, daisies and a roast goose. All of these things are presumably readily available on the day of the feast, September 29. The same is not true for those of us on the other side of the pond. September is as good a time as any for carrots and there are daisy-like flowers that happen to grow near our home. But blackberries are long out of season by September and geese are simply not carried by most grocery stores at any time of the year (I offered to catch one of the wild Canadian geese that live in holding ponds around Tallahassee but my wife didn’t go for this idea). Even without the most authentic ingredients, my wife prepared a wonderful Michaelmas feast with organic frozen blackberries baked into a cobbler and an especially fat chicken as a fine substitute for a goose.

We are often able to find traditional ways of celebrating some holidays but recipes and detailed suggestions for activities and prayers are not so easy to find no matter how many search results Google returns. My wife reads many Catholic Mom and family blogs but often finds their culinary suggestions to be… lacking. For Michaelmas, one blog suggested Little Debbie’s angel food cake. With 2,000 years of Christianity and a globe of diverse culinary schools to draw from, surely we can do better than processed snack foods.

When celebrating our faith, we want to feed our family healthy food while also making sure this food is ethically produced. For most of Christian history, this was a lot easier to do than it is now. Almost all food was “seasonal” and “organic” while most livestock was treated humanely, especially in comparison to modern factory farms. I am not trying to discredit all modern agriculture, grocery stores, and nutrition science. However, I do believe that we have lost much in our divorce from where our food really comes from. But this is too long a digression for now. The important point is that what we eat and how we treat creation is not incidental to our celebration of our faith.

I guess that seems like a lot to consider when you just want to have a simple feast, but we’re going to give it a shot. We’ll record out attempts here by posting some of our research, recipes, prayers and whatever else we happen to stumble on.

Here’s a list of what we hope to celebrate:

  1. The Christian year.
  2. The lives of the Saints and Martyrs.
  3. The global Church.
  4. The earth’s bounty.
  5. The goodness of creation.