Days: Good Friday

(Yes I am recycling. This is a copy of my Good Friday post from the past… I liked it so I am sharing all over again!)

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This day seems to be the forgotten holiday of the year. There is no lead-up to Good Friday. No frenzied fanfare of festivity. No elaborate feasts to plan and prepare. That is probably why I like this holiday the best.

Good Friday really is a day off from the bustle and hustle of the consumer world. No sales. Just time to contemplate the world. I am sitting here this morning with a second cup of coffee, watching the sun peak over the horizon. There is a slight mist on the roofs of the houses as the day slips from springtime chill to springtime warmth.

I have time to think. Let my brain play with words. Roofs. Rooves. I remember learning in school that the plural of roof was rooves. But now we use the american “roofs”. When did that change? The rule I learned was if it ends in ‘f’ or ‘fe’  then to make the plural you drop the “f” sound and writes “ves”.

dwarf to dwarves
elf to elves
hoof to hooves
knife to knives
leaf to leaves
life to lives
self to selves
wolf to wolves

Of course then there are words that ignore the rule anyway – like the plural of beef is not beeves. And the plural of proof is not prooves.

Ah English the language of rules, and long lists of exceptions to the rules! This is why English is such an exceptional language.

As you can see Good Friday is for getting diverted and contemplative. Mindless musing. The above was simply pointless stream of consciousness.  A raw slice of my brain straight up. I am full of trivia. Or full of something.

My favourite memory of Good Friday is from many many many years ago. I was in my early twenties. I was with some friends driving up to Midland, Ontario to find a very specific restaurant that served Lake Huron whitefish. Our friend and driver had heard the fish was incredibly fresh and delicious.

Now I don’t remember the restaurant name but I do think it was Henry’s Fish Restaurant. I’ve been back a few times so my memory may be muddled. And the fish is still worth the long drive!

But this memory isn’t about the destination. It is about the journey. That day was a foggy Good Friday. Dense white cotton fog slowing us down to well below the speed-limit. The trees and posts shadowy dark flickers flashing by us. The road shiny black and slick. There was no-one else on the road. Just us – some friends on a journey. Cocooned in our own reality.

In the back of the car was a book – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – and for me it was an incredible find. At that moment, in that space, that book and the message inside clicked with me. There are concepts in that book that I had no idea could actually exist! My friend – the driver of the car – saw me thumbing through the book and gave it to me.

From where I sit today I can see that same book looking at me from my shelves. It is bedraggled and stained and dog-eared. The book has survived the years – my friend the driver did not. He died later that year from leukemia. But on that Good Friday there was no leukemia darkening our thoughts. On that day we were full of life twenty-somethings on a road trip. Our driver was a big robust man full of life and zest – and by the fall of that year he was an anemic husk gasping for air in a hospital bed. He was much too young to die.

That Good Friday held no hint of the sadness waiting in our future. We laughed, we talked. The restaurant wasn’t open we arrived, so we walked the waterfront. We drank early morning beers (cans in bags – oh we were so clever!) by the lake, while we discussed philosophy and how we would change the world. By the time we had finished our exploration of Midland – the sun had burned away the morning fog.

The fish was indeed wonderful, and we promised that next year we would repeat the road-trip. We promised that this would become our Easter weekend ritual. I’ve been back since then – but the ritual never blossomed.

In the mid-afternoon sunshine we drove back the way we had come. No hurry to get anywhere, we stopped at used bookshops and curio stores along the way looking for old National Geographic magazines. And books on World War II history. Our own version of an Easter Egg hunt for those that no longer believed in the Easter Bunny.

Good Friday: A good day to remember how we have arrived at this moment in time. And to remember those who we loved and left behind.


Ramble: Feast of the Epiphany

January 6th and the year is underway. Still the echo of Christmas is across Christian land as today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the day the three wise-men arrive and offer their gifts to the the new born king. In many ways today is the day that gifts should really be given and not December 25th.

Some still celebrate this day as a little Christmas – I used to leave small gifts out for my kids to find when they were little. Now they’d rather get some money or borrow my car!

Enjoy the day!


Twelfth Day of Christmas: Twelve Drummers Drumming

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On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Twelve Drummer Drumming…

January 5th  is here and so this is the “Twelfth Day of Christmas.”  In the Christian calendar  this is listed as the traditional feast day for  St. Julian the Hospitaller. In the UK it is the feast day of St. Edward the Confessor (also known as King Edward the Confessor). A more modern Saint honoured on this day is St. John Neumann. That is a lot of saintliness for one day!

You can read the Wikipedia entries I have linked above so I won’t spend too much time on the details of their lives of these Saints. St. Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of travelers,  has an interesting myth associated with him where he is tricked into killing his parents. St. Edward, the patron saint of difficult marriages (yes before there was an App for there – that was a Saint for that…), was the only King of England to be canonized.

The modern saint of the day – St. John Neumann – was a Bishop of Philadelphia, living in a time when there was a rabid anti-catholic sentiment in the USA. Feelings were so strong that there were burnings of Catholic Churches, schools and seminaries.  It is a fascinating parallel to the strong feelings currently sweeping through the USA – especially related to “non-Christians”. Politically this lead to the Know Nothing movement and included the 1852 American Party which reads like an ancestor of the Tea Party movement. Its main platform was opposition to all foreigners (especially non-Protestants), and its motto was “Americans must rule America.” The more things change the more they stay the same!

Now that has very little to do with Christmas as a celebration  – but it sure is a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of US politics and world social movements.

In the secular traditions of Christmas this is Twelfth Day, and tonight then is Twelfth Night. Most of us know the the Twelfth Night as a play be Willaim Shakespeare. The title of Twelfth Night refers to the magic that flows into the world during Christmastide, as the old order of the world is over-turned by the coming of  Christ. The play itself reflects the Carnivalesque atmosphere of Yuletide – where things are reversed and confused and involves cross-dressing, switching of roles (master becomes servant – servant is master). Christmastide reflects the essential fact that Christianity has rather rebellious roots at its foundation.  A virgin has a child – and that child is the divine become human. The barrier between heaven and earth is breached and will never be the same.

Twelfth Night as the Eve of the Epiphany, and as a Christmas tradition, is a day of celebration and carousing. It is a festive occasion marked by merrymaking, feasting and drinking. The wassail punch of the song “Here We Come a Wassailing” is an important part of the English tradition for Twelfth Night. The carol itself has become associated with Christmas Eve, however more traditionally it was part of Twelfth Night celebrations.  This is a night for singing, dancing, drinking and celebrating.

The modern Twelfth Night is now the traditional time for Christmas decorations to be removed and put away. Any edible decorations are distributed and eaten. My parents would have colorfully wrapped marzipan on our Christmas tree – and any we hadn’t already consumed would be eaten that night. My mother always pretended surprise at the many wrappers stuffed with tissue – the delightful marzipan somehow transmuted into paper.

In the Christian context, Twelfth Night is celebrating the Eve of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th is the day the three wise men arrive and the “manifestation” of god as human within the infant Jesus. This is part of the “upside-down” nature of Christmastide. On Christmas eve, the birth of Jesus is revealed to the animals in the stable, and then announced to the ordinary people first – “shepherds watching their flocks by night.” The elite of the world must wait until later for the revelation of the manifestation of god. With the appearance of the three wise-men and their gifts worthy of  a King bestowed the promise of Christmas is delivered into the world.

Since the actual day of the Epiphany is a joyous and solemn event  – Twelfth Night is then a chance to revel in the unfettered  merriment of Christmastide one last time. Perhaps having a hang-over makes for quiet worship the next day.

So on this Twelfth Night – eat, drink and be merry!


Eleventh Day of Christmas: Eleven Pipers Piping

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping…

January 4th  is here and so this is the “Eleventh Day of Christmas.”  In the Christian Christmas tradition this is the octave day for the feast of the Holy Innocents. The saint venerated today is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint.

In reading the Wikipedia entry on Elizabeth Ann Senton it seems she was a woman who encountered many difficulties and tragedies through her life, and through her faith she was able to overcome that adversity. She was born into a family of standing and so had access to an education, and to resources to assist her in her struggles. Still she could have simply withdrawn from the world and avoided the world – instead she used her standing, and resources to improve education. This is why she is considered the patron saint of Catholic Schools in the United States.

As the major feast is the last day of the octave for the Feast of Holy Innocents – it is strangely fitting that the Saint of the day be considered a guardian of schools. While much of the Christmas season is focused on joy and celebration, the secondary themes of tragedy and sorrow are also part of the Christmas tapestry. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is not a prominent part of our current cultural experience – yet with the horrible memory of the shooting at Sandy Hook and in Peshawar, Pakistan still fresh in our minds it now seems that this is part of the season we need to remember.

There is no standard music specific to this day, and the carols and hymns of the previous days are still part of the rituals of tradition. Since the Eleventh day of Christmas has Pipers Piping I think I will find a nice bit of pipe music.

According to the National Days listings for the US – today is National Spaghetti Day. A nice big bowl of pasta seems appropriate. I like mine with a meat sauce – and lots of fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Mmmm.

Happy New Year – and Merry Eleventh day of Christmas!

And now I think I need a drink – so here is a drink for the eleventh day of Christmas involving scotch (in honour of pipers of course!). It is more complicated than I would might make – usually I just skip straight to the scotch.

 


Tenth Day of Christmas: Ten Lords-a-Leaping

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Ten lords-a-leaping…

January 3rd  is here and so this is the “Tenth Day of Christmas.” To tell the truth all this Christmas-ing and celebrating is making me  wee bit tenth myself! All these birds and people bouncing about would make for once hectic household.  In the tradition of the twelve days of Christmas this day – like yesterday – seems rather ambiguous. Perhaps a day for quiet reflection. In the official Christian feast days today is the Feast of St. Genevieve. Genevieve is the patron Saint and protector  of Paris.

Apparently St. Genevieve lived in Paris in the during the 400’s when there was much turmoil across Europe. Much like today where hordes of bankers and money-lenders pillage the land. Back then it was Attila the Hun, and other wandering barbarians like the Visigoths. Huh – now that I think about it not much has really changed.

St. Genevieve apparently acted as what we would call today a “human rights worker” by making sure that food and aid went to those in desperate need of help. The directly Saintly part comes later after her death when she is credited (through prayer) with helping avert a medical disaster that was sweeping through Paris.

In the USA today is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day. I had no idea we actually celebrated such rare and treasured parts of our North American culture. So raise a chocolate covered cherry and enjoy. These are deadly little confections of delight – so I would suggest controlling your access to these treats.

Given how the days seem to trail off into ambiguity and mostly “meh” I can see why we rarely celebrate all twelve days any more. It does get better so please do bear with me as we get through the final days of Christmas!

Here is hoping you enjoy the Tenth day of Christmas – with a cherry on top!


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