It’s the most wonderful time of the year… the end of the year is a time for the holidays and great feasts what’s interesting to remember is that many of these traditions go back to old European Christian holydays – which by the way is original root word for holiday. I celebrate 3 major Feast Seasons and several individual Feast Holydays spread throughout the year in addition to the weekly Sunday Supper Feast.
My Feasts and How I Celebrate Them
A Feast is a day or a series of days where the emphasis is celebration and enjoyment; embracing all the pleasures of life, of the table, and of the vine; there’s no fasting or sacrifices or limits on food – of course it’s critical to point out that life is a rhythm of ebbing and flowing and so the Feasts are compensated for with the Fasts. Essentially I eat what I want, how I want, and as much as I want. The Feasts are linked to special holydays of significance to me such as Saints’ Days and also personal holidays like my anniversary.
Dinner is the centerpiece of the Feast Day with a celebratory multi-course meal with family and friends made of the freshest ingredients. If I have the day off I will spend the morning lounging on the couch with my wife and our 4 dogs skimming through some of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration on the menu. Once the menu has been determined I’ll make a list for the groceries and head out to the market to buy what I need. Occasionally a Feast Day will mean going out to eat at a restaurant but once again the focus is on quality and celebration so while I don’t eat out very often, when I do it’s normally to a very nice restaurant.
Annual Feast Seasons
My celebration of the Easter Week begins first with Easter Sunday and continues to the following Sunday which is Divine Mercy Sunday. During this week the two Sundays are capstones to the feast with amazing Sunday Suppers. During the course of the week I free myself from any limits on things I would want to eat as well as not fasting when I normally would for example on Friday or Saturday. The Easter Feast was preceded by Lent which is 40 days of fasting and strict limits on foods.
All Hallows Tide
Hallow is a synonym with holy and that is connected to the root word for saint = santo which roughly translates as holy as well. This holiday is the 3 day window starting with All Hallows Eve on the 31st of October – known more commonly in the US as Halloween – then All Saints Day (All Hallows Day in older English) on the 1st of November then finally All Souls Day on the 2nd of November (Dia De Los Muertos in Spanish countries). These holydays commemorate and honor the saints and faithful who have passed away; especially in Spanish cultures we commemorate all the family and friends that have died. For me this holyday also has an extra special meaning because All Saints Day is also my birthday so for me these days are a double feast. I typically fast on All Hallows Eve until dinner and then the feast starts with that dinner and continues until dinner on All Souls Day.
Christmas is my favorite time of year and my greatest feast! I celebrate the traditional “12 Days of Christmas” with large scale feasting and celebrations. I start the celebration with a fast on Christmas Eve until dinner and then from dinner Christmas Eve all the way through to dinner on January 6 – the Feast of the Epiphany – it is nonstop feasting. Once again like in all things Mediterranean there is a balance to the rhythm and the Christmas Season is preceded by Advent which is 4 weeks of preparation and fasting.
Saint’s Days and Personal Holidays
These celebrations occur on an annual repeating basis and last for only a day. They are the feast days of a handful of saints which have a deep personal meaning for me, personal holidays like my anniversary, my wife’s birthday, and national holidays like Thanksgiving, etc… These one day celebrations typically revolve around a special meal (like Thanksgiving) and it’s at that meal where I partake in the feast.
Sunday Weekly Feast
Every week there is a micro-reenactment of the Easter Passion and this is a Mediterranean tradition going back countless centuries; it is something deeply ingrained into the people and culture of Mediterranean societies. In the ancient tradition, which is still somewhat followed in varying degrees by different Mediterranean cultures, Wednesday was a day of fasting in remembrance of Judas’ betrayal of Christ in going to the Pharisees to make the deal the day before the Last Supper (Thursday night). Then Friday was another day of fasting in remembrance of the Crucifixion and this fast typically would continue into Saturday – resting in the tomb – and end with sundown Saturday (the liturgical beginning of Sunday). Then, of course, Sunday was the weekly celebration of the Resurrection and was a great feast. I carry out this weekly ritual by conducting a partial fast on Wednesday (16 Hour Fast) until lunch and then fast on Friday and Saturday during the day. The feast begins on Saturday night with dinner and culminates with the Sunday Supper meal. Every Sunday is always a feast but there are some Sundays that are an even greater feast and on those occasions the menu tends to be a bit more extravagant some examples of special Sundays would be Easter or Pentecost and other similar celebrations.
In the end living the Mediterranean Lifestyle means maintaining a balance and following the rhythm of the year with the ebb and flow with feast and fast. It’s been a good but very busy year for me and I’m looking forward to getting into some of the great feasting that awaits me at this time of year.