If I am lucky, I can be outdoors on a rare late summer morning 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 Bl. Teresa of Calcutta on her feast, Sept. 5. On Sept. 8, we always have cupcakes with blue sprinkles to celebrate the Blessed Mother's birthday.
The following week, we'll celebrate the Triumph of the Cross on Sept. 14 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 Sept. 21. St. Michael and the Archangels are celebrated on Sept. 29, 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 Sept. 30, 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 Oct. 1 and I've got some small ones to sugar and freeze for the cake.
Honestly, by Oct. 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 save them for our Christmas tree.
Finally, the end of birthday week brings a new twist to our family celebrations. Last year, the Feast of St. Francis on Oct. 4 took on a new significance. Karoline was born that day. We are going to celebrate with an animal-themed birthday. 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.
Then, I totally crash for a couple of days, celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7 and begin to plan for Advent.
For more feast day celebration ideas and photos visit my blog at www.ebeth.typepad.com.