four calling birds wake
me from peaceful dreaming
Herod killed them all
On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Four Calling Birds…
December 28th is here and so this is the “Fourth Day of Christmas.” This day adds a somber connection to the celebration of Christmas as it is the “Feast of the Holy Innocents“, also called the Massacre of the Innocents. The day reflects on the story in the Gospel of Matthew of the slaughter of the male infants by King Herod.
The somber tone of the day is captured in the traditional Christmastide hymn, the Coventry Carol and the words:
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
Every year children are the collateral damage of war, and greed. In the midst of all the joy and festivities associated with Christmas time, it is easy to forget, or even avoid, the tragedy and sadness that is also in the world. Individuals will choose to commit terrible acts of madness that leave the rest of the world gasping in shock and horror. How on earth can anyone choose to cause such harm?
On the lighter side of this day – this is also a day to celebrate the joy of our children and the precious life of the future generations. A society, a culture, a civilization is nothing without its children. All the goodness and sanity and wonder of the world is useless unless there is someone to carry on that goodness into the future. We bequeath what we are and what we have learned to our children so they can make something even better.
Within that lighter side of the day some cultures use this day as an opportunity for role reversals. On this day the youngest member of the household rules the day. This may actually be another borrowed aspect of Saturnalia that can be found throughout the Christmas season – when slaves became “masters” for the day. In some countries part of the upside-down aspect of the day is celebrated with “practical jokes” similar to April Fool’s Day.
The traditional food of the day – since it is a day of infants – is anything a baby could eat. Most commonly some type of hot cooked cereal flavoured with sugar and cinnamon. After all the rich foods of the previous days of Christmas a simple bowl of oatmeal might be a welcome change! Add a nice mug of hot milk and one is all set for a nice quiet day of enjoying family.
Wishing you a Peaceful Fourth Day of Christmas!
On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Three French Hens…
December 27th is here and so this is the “Third Day of Christmas.” In the Western Christian tradition this is the Feast of Saint John – which makes this St. John’s Day. St. John was the only Apostle that was not martyred for his beliefs, and lived into old age.
One story of St. John the Evangelist suggests that there was an attempt to poison St. John, by placing poison in his wine. St. John blessed the wine before he drank it – and thus cleansed it of any poison. A tradition of this day is then to take a bottle of wine to Church, and have the bottle blessed. The wine is then consumed as part of the family dinner.
As part of the tradition of this day in the Roman rite of the Church this prayer was part of the December 27th mass:
O Lord God, deign to bless and consecrate with Thy right hand this cup of wine and of whatever drink: and grant that through the merits of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, all who believe in Thee and who drink from this cup may be blessed and protected. And as blessed John drank from the cup of poison and remained completely unharmed, may, through his merits, all who drink from the cup on this day in honor of blessed John be rescued from every sickness of poison and from every kind of harm; and, offering themselves up body and soul, may they delivered from all fault. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bless, O Lord, this creature of drink: that it may be a remedy of salvation for all who consume it: and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name that whoever will have tasted of it may, through Thy giving, experience health of the soul as well as of the body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon this creature of wine and of whatever drink, and remain forever. Amen.
This sounds like my kind of celebration – the blessing and drinking of wine. In moderation of course – with no driving afterwards.
In doing some further reading on St. John’s Day, I came across a reference to a traditional drink: William Kaufman provides this recipe in the Catholic Cookbook for a St. John’s Day mulled wine:
1 quart red wine
3 whole cloves
1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 two-inch cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
Pour the wine into a large saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes (which will reduce the alcohol and let the flavours meld). Serve hot. 8-10 servings. Toast each other with the traditional offering of “Drink the love of St. John.”
Happy Third Day of Christmas – and Cheers!
- Carissimi: Today’s Mass; St John the Evangelist, Apostle (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
- No french hens (loiselden.com)
pine tree scent infused
my home filled with memory
feel the bells chime
golden yellow fruit
yields sweet juices on my tongue