Some of the ways we can celebrate the feasts of the Church is by giving them the same significance other major days in our calendars have, observing them with the same attention and ritual as we might a birthday or an anniversary. Such activities can include participating in any scheduled liturgical services (or at home, if nothing is being done at the local parish), celebrating with a special meal, which may or may not incorporate foods associated with a particular saint or feast, praying as a family, using a festal icon, or having treats specific to that feast. Let’s look at some of the feasts which are a part of our calendar and what we can do to celebrate them.
1 Beginning of the Church Year. The new year for the Church remains tied to the New Year in the Roman/Byzantine Empire, which over time took on a religious significance. Take the opportunity to make “New Year’s resolutions” with your family, especially resolutions which focus on spiritual or other devotional practices.
8 Nativity of the Theotokos. The Nativity of the Theotokos is the first Great Feast in our yearly liturgical cycle and remembers the birth of Mary, the Mother of God. The hymns of this feast reference the Protoevangelion of James, an early Christian work from which much of the tradition surrounding the Theotokos derives. If you wish to make bread for this feast for use as artoklasia during Great Vespers, you can follow the recipe for holy bread featured in Inside the Domestic Church Part 18, with the addition of 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon, ½ nutmeg, ½ tsp cloves, and 1/3 cup of oil.
14 Exaltation of the Lifegiving Cross. This feast celebrates the discovery of the Cross by St Helena in the fourth century. On this day, the Cross is processed around the Church as the priest blesses North, South, East, and West. Some ways to celebrate this feast include growing basil in your garden or in a pot, which you can bring to church to adorn the cross for the feast, placing a cross in your icon corner prominently for the feast (adorned with flowers or basil), and singing the troparion of the Holy Cross (“O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance…”) as part of your prayer before meals.
The next several weeks of blog posts will focus on more holidays and customs throughout our calendar year.