Guest post by Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas
Eating seasonal produce has become a common goal for many families seeking healthier food and a closer tie to their local farmers. Raising chickens, urban gardening, and getting in tune with what’s in season has been an exciting journey for my family of five, but it’s not the journey I’m going to tell you about today.
I want to share about eating seasonally, not just with what grows in your garden, but according to a different calendar: The Christian Year.
The Sacred in the Mundane
Almost five years ago, after our first baby was born, we wanted to start developing family traditions that would bring our Christian faith into our home in ways that our kids could touch, taste, and smell. Children are sensory learners (and grown-ups are, too!) but more importantly, the spiritual life touches our souls and our bodies. Ever since the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we live on an earth literally touched by heaven where the spiritual and the material intersect.
This has huge significance for the Christian life, even in the minutiae of daily tasks, because the sacred touches the mundane. Because of this, preparing a meal, setting the table, and enjoying food with family and friends can be an act of beautiful worship. And for the past 2,000 years, Christians have been building traditions that use food to help us walk through each year with Jesus.
What Does Liturgical Eating Look Like?
While nearly all Christians celebrate Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, some Christians observe the liturgical seasons (such as Advent and Lent) and other traditional Christian feast days that honor holy men and women and biblical events like the Annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary) or Pentecost. And many families who didn’t grow up with the Christian Year (I didn’t!) are seeking out ways to adopt these traditions in their homes to be part of the bigger community of their brothers and sisters in Christ across the world and through time.
Our culture has a binge and diet attitude toward food, but the Christian calendar offers us rhythms of feasting and fasting that always point us to Jesus.
Advent (the weeks before Christmas), and Lent (the 40 days before Easter Sunday) are seasons of spiritual preparation and fasting. (For our family, that means lots of simple soups and vegetarian meals like beans and rice.) This isn’t because we’re trying to take all the fun out of meal times during those seasons, but because eating simply is a great way to remind ourselves of what should be happening inside–removing distractions, making sacrifices, and making ready our hearts for the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
And then, because we’ve fasted from fancy meals, when we pull out all the stops for the seasons of Christmastide (12 days) and Eastertide (50 days), we’ve prepared ourselves to fully enter into the celebration and get down and party! (And we’re not already sick of the holidays before they begin.)
By involving our mouths and stomachs in the practice of our faith, we can really participate in the story of God’s love for humanity in a wonderful way.
We are reminded by our dinner fare that we are waiting for the coming of the Christ Child during Advent, we celebrate the arrival of Our Savior during Christmas, we thank God that he sent his Son not just for one group of people but for the whole world during Epiphany (the feast celebrating the Wise Men’s adoration of Jesus), we confront our sinfulness and follow Jesus to the Cross at Lent, and we throw the party of all parties to celebrate the Resurrection when Christ Our Hope conquered sin and death.
Where Do I Start?
(Ugandan Chicken Stew and Ugali to celebrate the feast of the Ugandan martyrs, June 3, from my Christian Year cookbook, Feast!: Real Food Reflections and Simple Living for the Christian Year)
Beginning to observe the liturgical year at your table can be overwhelming. Especially if, like us, you didn’t grow up in a tradition that observe the Christian Year. But taking baby steps to orient your dinner table to the sacred, is such a meaningful journey.
You can slowly add onto your traditions and keep your recipes and ideas in a liturgical year binder. After years of developing liturgically-minded meals for our family, we compiled all our gluten-free real food recipes and published them with reflections and practical tips on observing the Christian Year in our book Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year. It’s the book we wish we had when we started this journey.
If the Christian Year is a new concept your family wants to pursue, I recommend just committing to one or two liturgically-minded meals per month. Maybe it’s Lent and you want to add a couple of simple vegetarian meals to the menu. Maybe you want to have a special feast for the Annunciation and read to your children from the Scriptures about the Angel Gabriel coming to Mary.
However you begin, the goal is to point our families to Jesus. And it can start around your dinner table.
What effective ways have you found to bring your faith into your home?
Haley Stewart is a bookish Catholic wife and homeschooling mama to three littles. She can be found at her blog, Carrots for Michaelmas, or chasing her backyard chickens, eating bacon, and drinking too much coffee on her little urban homestead.