Preparing to Celebrate the Feasts of the Fall

If I am lucky, I can be outdoors on a rare late summermorning and I can feel just a little hint of autumn in the air. And it will make me smile. I’m not doing the jig the lady did the other day in the supermarket when she was asked how excited she was to send her children back to school. My children don’t go to school. But I am thrilled to be settling at last into the rhythm of the autumn.

 These are days that are filled with light and warmth. As the academic year gets underway, we return to our early morning rising and our comfortable routines. We get in an after breakfast walk and notice the change of seasons around us. We settle into our new stories and projects. We begin a new handcraft. The summer menu plan is replaced by an autumn one and we greet once again the sweet potato crop and the fall apples at our co-op.

 The Church is practically a perpetual feast in the early autumn. We go from one great saint to another, celebrating who they were and who they are in our lives. This year, right after school begins, our afternoon tea celebration will include Indian sweetbread and spiced chai tea. We will read and talk about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta on her feast September 5th. On September 8th, we will have cupcakes with blue sprinkles to celebrate the Blessed Mother’s birthday.

 The following week, we’ll celebrate the Triumph of the Cross on September 14th with a cross shaped cake at tea time and a simple stained glass cross craft. Then, we kick it into high gear and celebrate nearly every day (or at least it seems like it to me).

 My second son is named for St. Matthew. Gold chocolate coins are sure to figure into our celebration on September 21st .

St. Michael and the archangels are celebrated on September 29th, which happens to be my son Michael’s birthday. Devil’s Food cake served with tiny cocktail swords and cinnamon hot chocolate are standard St. Michael’s fare at our house.

 Katie’s birthday is September 30th, the feast of St. Jerome. We’ll read St. Jerome and the Lion by Margaret Hodges and make a crafty lion. Birthday cake will dominate the tea menu. After Katie’s birthday, it’s her feast day because her “real” name is Kirsten Therese.

 St. Therese is a patron of our family and I am careful to plan ahead so that her day does not get lost amidst the “birthday week” we celebrate here. Michael is Katie's godfather and he always brings her sweetheart roses ("little flowers"). We bake a white cake and decorate it with edible sugared roses. We serve some sort of herbal tea with rose hips. We pray the rose novena. This year, my Our Lady of Guadalupe roses have been amazing. I've been drying them to make sachets on October 1 and I’ve got some small ones to sugar and freeze for the cake.

On the evening of this feast, I'm halfway through birthday week.  And I am so looking forward to a long soak in the tub with this soap and this lotion and this candle (St. Therese Scent). These were gifts from a very kind person who might have heard my six-year-old mention (sort of loudly) that Saintly Soaps were the raffle prize I wanted most at the conference. Oh my! These are truly heavenly. Honestly, I'm not much on cake and sweets, but I have a weakness for nice soap and this might just be the nicest soap I've ever used--worthy of a feast day of my favorite saint of all. If St. Therese has a smell, this is it. When i use it to wash my baby's hair, every time I kiss her sweet head, it reminds me why we named her Karoline Rose.

Honestly, by October 2, we’re beginning to tire of cake. But cake again it is, because Patrick was born on the Feast of the Guardian angels. We have angel food cake, topped with chocolate mousse because Paddy loves chocolate mousse. I think we’ll try our hand at making wool fleece angels that day and hang them over the children's beds.

Finally, the end of birthday week brings a new twist to our family celebrations. Last year, the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th took on a new significance. Karoline was born that day. We are going to celebrate with an animal themed birthday (thanks to Matilda for the idea). Kara loves dogs, so the children have decided she’ll have a cake decorated with a dog theme. They are excited about painting faces with animal characters. Nicholas was a bit skeptical as we brainstormed, though. He’s wary of St. Francis. “No one will have to get naked on the town green, right?” he asked, looking for assurance. Nope. Not this year.

 I’m planning and putting aside provision for the feasts and, honestly, I’m tired just thinking about it. But the celebration of birthdays, intertwined with name days and feast days is a part of our family culture. This is not back-to-school time, it’s party-hearty time. And in the process, we learn a little more each year about the saints and angels, we try a few new crafts, and we eat way too much cake.

 It's not usually so busy around here, but I have grown to love the way that the feasts of the Church are intertwined with the feasts of our family. After busy birthday brouhahas, we'll settle again into a quiet rhythm of one teatime a week set aside for liturgical celebrations. As you think about how the autumn will look in your domestic church, remember the planning conversation continues here and here. These ladies are full of good ideas!