Celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation

Yesterday was March 25th known to many as the Feast of the Annunciation.  It falls 9 months before Christmas because it is the celebration of  the Angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God.

 

The feast of the annunciation
My daughter came up with this display all on her own, I was impressed.

 

It is a holiday celebrated most famously in Sweden with waffles and in other countries with circular cakes (like bunt cakes) to symbolize eternity or seed cakes (like poppy seed) to represent new life.  It is a festive day and when it falls in the middle of Lent it can feel a bit jarring. Here we have been meditating on death and repentance and are suddenly thrust into a something that feels more like a baby shower.

The feast of the annunciation
I wish I would have stopped to take a picture of the 13 kids eating cake in the back yard.

 

There are some things  which can’t be taught in books, they must be lived to be known.  One of the gifts of the liturgical calendar, is that through its various seasons and holidays it teaches us to experience life in the light of our faith in Christ.

 

This year I had several friends who faced the death of a loved one right at Christmas time.  They had no choice but to grieve and celebrate in the same breath. These sorts of emotional juxtapositions always be gut retchingly difficult. Yet living year by year through the liturgical seasons we are offered a foretaste of the multi-dimensional nature of our emotional life.  In following the seasons we are encouraged to explore the depths of our own souls in both joy and sorrow, to bring our hearts before God, and to align ourselves with the life of the church. When triumph is followed by disaster we have a sense of the path to take, we have walked it and we know where to fix our eyes. In the darkness of the tomb we wait for the light of resurrection.

The feast of the annunciation
Check out this cake.

 

Save

Save

So happy Feast of the Annunciation to you and I pray that the remainder of lent is a beautiful time of reflection as we anticipate the celebration of Easter that is to come.

 

For more on the liturgical year, check out this book.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe to get monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

I’ve been wanting to do something to celebrate the end of the Christmas season for a few years now and this time we finally pulled it off.  There are a few different approaches you can take for having a party this time of year.  First off you can have a 12th night party which is on (you guessed it!) the twelfth night of Christmas.

You can also do an Epiphany party which is technically the day after the 12th night of Christmas but it seems reasonable to celebrate it any time between the 12th night and the following Sunday. Epiphany in the church is a celebration of Christ’s first revelation to the gentiles in the form of the star appearing to the Three Wise Men.

And then on the off chance that you have some connection with Eastern Europe where they still use the Julian Calendar you can also celebrate what we referred to in my childhood as “Greek Christmas” which is on January 7th as far as I can tell. For our party we didn’t really specify but here are the things we did.

First we did not do dinner.  Let’s face it, a dinner party is a lot of work and a lot of expense. After Christmas we just weren’t up for it. Instead we made a King’s cake. Which is typically a sort of sweet yeast bread rolled with cream cheese filling. I was out of cream cheese and didn’t have time to wait for a cake to rise so I made a simple cinnamon swirl bunt cake and though I didn’t try it everyone said it was good and there were no leftovers.

Don’t forget to hide a baby in the cake! This was a tradition familiar to us after spending many winters in Mexico (did you know that kids in Mexico often get more gifts from The Three Kings on Kings Day than from Santa on Christmas?).  Whoever gets the baby is supposed to make the tamales for the next feast but we didn’t hold anyone to it. A more modern tradition is to hide three babies (you can substitute a large bean, or use a fig like I did, the little plastic babies are hard to find, I know it sounds super weird) and whoever gets a bean gets to wear a crown, one for each king.

Second make Wassail, a hot mulled cider which is the traditional drink for this time of year. We had Brandy to add to ours and then hot chocolate, not to add, just for another option.

Third  make Magi crowns.  I found the most basic crown pattern on the internet, print it, cut it out (two at a time, it went fast) stapled two together, spray painted them gold and voila. I picked up some jewel stickers at the dollar store and the kids used them to decorate their crowns. This was a great souvenir, kept the kids surprisingly engaged, and no one got injured with the stapler.

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

Fourth make Magi gifts.  We sent the kids home with three versions of DIY Play-dough mixed with glitter for gold and the others fragranced with frankincense and myrrh essential oils (actually I didn’t have mhyrr so I used Ylang-Ylang and Lavender, no one knew the difference).

How to throw an Epiphany Party in Four Easy steps.

One more add on which was an unexpected treat that my husband whipped up was a lively family sing along of the first verse of “Here we go a-wassailing” which apparently is a song about poor folks going door to door drinking warm beer, and the “12 Days of Christmas” which was a hit with the kids.

Life has been hard for many of my friends and family this holiday season.  And for some who have had a recent loss Christmas felt like a very low place.  Gathering for ongoing celebrations is an important part of living and grieving  and healing together. This party took us about half a day’s work to pull together and the memories of time spent together finding babies in cakes is totally worth it. So here is to the 12th Night and Epiphany and Greek Christmas and hoping that in 2017 we will always be able to find something to celebrate.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

I’ll be the first to admit I have no business writing this post. I have only attended two Posadas in my life. A Posada is traditionally done in Catholic and Hispanic communities and I am significantly involved in neither.  So if you already know anything about this tradition I encourage you to seek out a wiser source. But for those of you that have never heard of this beautiful tradition I hope I can offer a decent introduction and motivate you to learn more and to consider participating in one next year.

La Posada means “the inn”.  La Posada or Las Posadas (the inns) is an activity typically done in the week or so before Christmas. Churches do them but so do neighborhoods or family groups.  The one we attended this year was at La Posada Providencia an immigrant shelter, so yes it was a Posada at an actual Posada.  La Posada is a sort of theatrical procession where a group follows Mary and Joseph as they go door to door in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay.  They are met by several rejections before finally being welcomed into the last house. Mary and Joseph take the seat of honor and everyone has a party.  There is an official song which everyone has a copy of that is sung back and forth between those in the procession and those waiting inside of each building.

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

 

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

Depending on how far you are walking you may sing a few traditional Christmas carols intermixed with the traditional song. We ended ours with a party and a special time of prayer for immigrants and refugees around the world who are living out the quest for Posada everyday.  It was especially moving to go through this production with our group of immigrants several who are well known to us by now and with a Mary and Joseph who have come from opposite corners of Africa seeking the hospitality of strangers in the US. There was the shedding of tears of grief and of joy especially by those from central America for whom the tradition of La Posada was a familiar homecoming.

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

 

An Introduction to the Nativity Tradition of Las Posadas

La Posada is a beautiful way to focus the celebrations of Christmas on the incarnation of Christ, to learn hospitality and to become mindful of those in our midst who are seeking shelter. I highly recommend you make this part of your Christmas traditions.  For a simple kid’s book about La Posada check out Tomie de Paula’s The Night of Las Posadas.

If you are looking for a Posada to participate in consider checking in with a Catholic Church that has a Spanish service or congregation.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

Save

Save

Save

A Greek’s Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

Christmas day is past but we still are still celebrating in our house and will be until Epiphany.  I finally got the popcorn garland finished today and put it on the tree. As usual I was a bit of a mad woman trying to cook and bake and sew and clean, host parties, go to parties and do every other activity that I do in preparation for Christmas. Right now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor by eating left overs, sleeping in and listening to Christmas music non-stop.

For Christmas gifts, our family typically assembles a few homemade goodies for family and friends.  This year I decided to try my hand at one of my all time favorite foods.  It is a Greek candy called Pasteli . I just learned the official name but I grew up eating these out of my Yiayia’s candy dish.  When I moved away she would send me boxes in little care packages and snacking on theses sweet candies sustained me through many an exam and night on call.

As far as candies go they are reasonably healthy. The version I grew up with and attempted to make contained only honey and sesame seeds. Others may contain sugar, nuts like pistachios and spices like cinnamon and ginger. The preparation is relatively simple and requires no baking or special equipment.  The trick, which I haven’t mastered yet is getting the consistency just right. You can enjoy them anyway but I want mine to be crunchy.  For my Christmas baking I made three batches. The first came out perfectly crisp, just like I remembered them. My next two stayed chewy, still good but a little messier to serve and eat. Substituting some of the honey for sugar (something I’m not willing to do yet) may help give a crunchier end product.    Still even my batches that didn’t come out just right were a big hit with guests and this will likely become a new staple for sweet snacking in my house.  Here is the quick and easy recipe.

 

Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey

 

A Greek's Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

 

Directions

  1. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter, coat it with a thin layer of butter or oil.
  2. Toast sesame seeds over medium heat until the color changes to a slightly golden brown but do not burn. Set them aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan warm honey, bring it to a boil and cook it over medium/high heat for 2 minutes, stir so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add seeds to honey and cook  for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching, until the mixture takes on an even deeper golden brown color.  Longer cooking should yield a crispier candy where shorter cooking should give a softer candy.
  5. Pour hot seeds and honey onto the parchment paper.  Place another sheet of parchment paper over top. With seed mixture sandwiched between two layers of parchment paper roll with a rolling pin until candy is about a quarter inch thick.
  6. Allow to cool.
  7. While still slightly soft but mostly cool transfer to a cutting board and slice into squares or strips.
  8. Once completely cool store in an air tight container layered with parchment paper in a cool dry place. If you want to store for more than a week consider switching to the fridge or freezer.

Enjoy this tasty and healthy Greek treat.
Opa!

A Greek's Guide to Sesame Seed Candy (Pasteli)

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 

 

Save

Save

Save