Geeky Liturgical Living

Last week, Melanie wrote about the isolation of trying to live the liturgical year as a family unit, instead of as a member of a broader community. And I have a lot to say about that, but my thoughts are having trouble incorporating as a blog post. So instead, because I’m a huge nerd and this is the sort of thing I like, I’m going to follow Jen Fitz’s lead and make a rough sketch of our domestic liturgical year, as well as (briefly!) discussion the principles that went into forming it.

Sundays, year round: We avoid unnecessary work, this day, but with both of us working and neither of us very organized, frequently odd bits (like washing slacks or a quick run to the grocery store) will become necessary. This is the day for big breakfasts and dinners and, when I’m particularly well organized, desserts. Sometimes we have D&D in the afternoon to early evening, and thus its extra festive because there are people for dinner.

Holy Days of Obligation, year round: Because we both work, I tend to plan fairly well in advance for these. Planning for HDOs is one of my few organizational triumphs. It is hard to get everyone to Mass on these days, which makes having a festive dinner harder. I try to have a dessert made in advance, and while dinner is not always fancy, it is at least made fresh. No leftovers.

Fridays, year round: This has been the hardest one to develop. Himself, while having grown up Catholic, was only given to understand that Friday abstinence from meat was no longer required. I, going through RCIA, came away with the slightly more nuanced understanding that it would be nice if we substituted some other penance but still nothing was required. Needless to say, both of these were wrong, and after figuring this out, we set about to meatless Fridays. We all hate meatless Fridays, and there are weeks when we aren’t so good at it and do some individual penance instead. But typically, the main meal of Friday is meatless.

Advent: We do an Advent wreath with dinner. I have a really lovely Advent wreath, for which I lovingly and painstakingly pour real beeswax pillars each year, usually at the last minute. One year I will be on top of things enough to have poured my pillars before Candlemas, but it hasn’t happened yet.

We also clean during Advent. The first two weeks of Advent are spent in getting the house generally tidied and ready for the madness of decorating that hits us on Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday is when we acquire and decorate the tree and do the rest of the general house trimming, indoors and out. This is less a liturgical snobbiness than a practical necessity – if I want a live tree to last through the Christmas season, the earliest we can set it up is Gaudete Sunday.

There is also a lot of cooking that goes on in Advent. Things that I can make ahead of time, like candied citrus peel or marzipan, and baked goods that can be frozen will get made through Advent and put away until they’re called for.

Saint Nicholas Day: The boys put out the shoes (greedy little boogers put out their boots!) and St. Nick fills them with gold chocolate coins and candy canes. There are homemade specuulas, and we have bratwurst, hot German potato salad, and cabbage for dinner. This is a great dinner option for a feast day because it is easy. Easy enough to make on a work night, even. And everyone likes it.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: This feast day is not only special because Himself is Hispanic, or because it’s an American patronal feast, but it’s also the day Himself proposed. But a proper celebration to the day has only sprouted this past year and it’s not quite certain what it will grow into.

This year*, we made homemade tamales (it was a day I had off work). The tamales were not spectacular (I chickened out when pouring molten lard into the masa), but they were fun to make, and tamale making is an art I’m determined to resurrect. Mike’s grandmother used to make them, and the very last time she made them I took copious notes. Sadly, the masa preparada available to me in Houston is very different than the masa preparada available in the Valley, and that was a big factor in their unspectacularness. But I think it will be tamales every year now. Maybe not freshly made that day, but tamales are well known for their excellent freezing and reheating qualities.

*It was on a Friday this year, but given our threefold closeness to this feast day, I relaxed our meatless meal in favor of a different penance.

Saint Lucy Day: Another household patron, acquired around the time I had to wean David at 15 months to receive treatment for macular degeneration. The whole family suffers from extremely bad eyesight and various other comorbidities. I make lussekatter, and I’d like to add a novena but I keep forgetting when it ought to start.

Christmas: Sadly, this big feast has the least amount of traditions grown up around it. We bounce year to year between families – one gets Christmas, the other gets Thanksgiving and New Years. Since we bought a house near enough to my parents to go back and forth instead of staying, a few small things have grown up, but in the Valley we are at the mercy of other people’s schedules, right down to the opening of presents Christmas morning afternoon.

One solid tradition I’ve made in the last few years is making stollen – German Christmas bread. I’d made an Easter bread for years and I felt that Christmas deserved its own festive bread. So the last few days before Christmas, or before my trip to the valley, I make my stollen. It also freezes well, so if we will be in the Valley for Christmas, I will stash a loaf in the freezer for when we get back. I make it pretty continuously throughout the Christmas season, and I bring at least one loaf to work, to the joy of my German professor who things it’s everything stollen should be.

When it is a home year, we go to the Midnight Mass. This is as much a practical choice as an aesthetic choice – none of the rest of my family is Catholic, and thus it impacts the general family schedule the least.

Anniversary: Our wedding anniversary is January 3rd, and if we’re lucky, both of us have the day off from work and my parents will watch the boys and we betake ourselves to Saint Arnold’s Brewery for an extended lunch. But the brewery doesn’t have the nice lunch arrangements on weekends, so this year we went mattress shopping instead.

Fake Epiphany: My opinion on transferring Epiphany to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th is well established. But in the meantime, Fake Epiphany has developed its own special tradition, by virtue of it happening twice in a row, of it being the day/weekend when we drive to College Station and spend a day with Raphael’s godparents and exchange gifts with them. Fake Epiphany is of such importance that it even supersedes either of our anniversaries and real Epiphany should they happen to coincide.

Epiphany: We started doing a full on “bless the house” Catholic spectacle this year. We use the lovely house blessing ceremony from Family in Feast and Feria, but modified so that we chalk up over all the doors into the house – even the garage. And we process around the house in the dark to do this. With candles. Singing. And then we go through the house liberally splashing around the holy water. And it is fun.

There is also King Cake, but this year marked another of many failed king cakes I’ve attempted. It’s my baking Waterloo.

St. Valentine’s Day: I hate crowds, and I hate the heavy emphasis of romance and children being mutually exclusive. So we have a romantic family dinner and game night. We cook together, something very nice, the elaborateness of which depends on what day of the week the holiday falls upon. And we play board games, with a new one acquired for the occasion.

February 14th is also the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, which means it’s also a patronal feast for Himself and Raphael.

Mardi Gras: We have pancakes and sausage and bacon for dinner.

Ash Wednesday: We go to Mass, sometimes separately, although we attempt for together. Everyone abstains, grown ups fast.

Lent: Other that what the Church requires, anything that we do is on an individual and variable from year to year basis. Because sticking with one penance all Lent is hard for littles, we come up with a list of six penances for David and he rolls a d6 every day to see what his daily sacrifice will be.

Food is generally simpler all Lent. I occasionally make pretzels. This year I would like to do Stations of the Cross regularly at home if we can’t make the parish’s.

Saint David’s Day: David’s feast day. We don’t have any particular observance to this day, although I know there’s something that goes on about wearing leeks in hats. David gets to pick dinner.

Saint Patrick’s Day: Beer cheese soup, with Guinness and white Irish cheddar. It’s vegetarian, so it’s good even on a Friday.

Saint Joseph’s Day: We have a Saint Joseph altar at home, and pasta. Last year we tried adding anchovies to the pasta sauce, but it wasn’t a hit.

Holy Week: I wrote extensively about Holy Week and Easter last year, but for a quick rundown, we don’t count on being able to make either the Mass of the Lord’s Supper or the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion. It’s too variable with work and littles. If we can’t make the services, we have solemn Vespers at home. And we have Tenebrae on Friday and Saturday mornings. We save our stamina for the Vigil, which we also always go to, because I am a liturgy nerd and love the Vigil and my husband humors me. Also, a lot of cooking preparation goes on this week.

Easter: My goal is for Easter to be our biggest, most memorable family feast. There is a lot of food, including a roast leg of lamb and spanakopita and baptism cake baked in a lamb mold. And the feasting goes on throughout Easter, as long as I can keep up the cooking.

Ascension and Pentecost: I got nothing. This bugs me. I especially feel like there should be a bread for Pentecost, but it will take some thought. Maybe this year.

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: This is something new for the coming year. We want to have a big bonfire on the vigil. Our current parish does not collect blessed palms to burn for ashes to bless on Ash Wednesday, and the sacramental clutter has reached a critical point. So a bonfire will give point for burning old, worn out sacramentals. Also, fire.

4th of July: We go to DeaCon and spend it playing board games.

Feast of the Archangels: I forget this one a lot, because there is always so much going on in late September. This is embarrassing because it’s both Himself’s and Raphael’s feast day. Last year we had risotto because it was a work day and risotto is easy enough, and I found half of a devil’s food cake mix and a tub of buttercream in the freezer and baked a small cake frosted with white. But last year I also read the story about Satan being cast out of heaven by St. Michael and landing in a tangle of blackberries, so I think in future years we will have pie or crisp.

Halloween: Costumes and candy. Costumes must be homemade and have a budgetary limit of $20, with exemptions for awesome ideas.

All Saints: Mass, of course. Last year our parish had a Saints procession into Mass, so more costumes. We have a nice dinner, with dessert.

All Souls: I don’t go to Mass this day anymore, unless I am sure it’s not going to be just a repeat of All Saints, replete with Father announcing he thinks most people go straight to heaven. It’s just too upsetting. I would like to start setting up an All Souls altar for the month of November, but it’s partly contingent on getting pictures printed.

Baptisms: For the actual event, I use a fairly set brunch menu of ham, hash browns, eggs, biscuits, fruit salad, baptism cake. For anniversaries, we try to have a smaller baptism cake and renewal of baptismal vows. These get shifted a lot because there always seems to be something going on and I’m not always organized enough for it.

Birthdays: The individual gets to choose what to have for dinner, but this doesn’t change very much. There is cake. Sometimes there is gaming. There had better be whiskey.

…and I think I’ll talk about principles in another post because this has gone on quite long enough.

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