1.John the Baptist | 2. Sts. Peter & Paul | 3. Assumption Day | 4. Michaelmas | 5. All Saints' Day | 6. All Souls' Day | Works Consulted
1. John the Baptist (June 24)
To our surprise, we could find no dishes linked to the feast of St. John's Birthday. Perhaps this is only fitting, as the Baptist himself was notoriously ascetic: in addition to wearing only a garment made out of camel's hair and a leather belt, he abstained from all wine and strong drink (Lk. 1.15) and ate only locusts and wild honey (Mt. 3.4). However, because Jesus explained John's rigor on the grounds that the Bridegroom had not yet manifested Himself for the feast, we who live after His manifestation (in the Time After Pentecost) are under a different dispensation to celebrate. Perhaps a dish involving honey would be the most appropriate culinary way to honor John's life. Not only would it be something that he himself ate, but it would recall the light to which he bore witness, since both honey and candle wax are made by bees. (And this, in turn, would remind us of his relation to the Paschal mystery).
2. Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29)
What better dish to honor the former fisherman of Galilee? There is even a particular fish associated with St. Peter: the "St. Peter Fish" or "John Dory" (the name "John Dory" comes from one of St. Peter's titles: Janitor, or Doorkeeper, of Heaven). According to legend, this flat, spiny, thick-skinned, and delicious fish is what St. Peter caught when Christ told him to "go thou to the sea, and cast in a hook; and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater [silver coin]; take that and give it" to the Temple tax collectors (Mt. 17:26). It is said that the fish Peter caught henceforth bears on its side the mark of a coin.
3. Feast of the Assumption (August 15)
As mentioned elsewhere, the Feast of the Assumption is traditionally associated with herbs and fruits. In fact, it was not unusual for the faithful in both the Eastern and Western churches to undergo a voluntary fortnight of fasting or abstinence from fruit prior to the solemnity. When the feast day finally arrived, every kind of fruit would be eaten.
4. Michaelmas (September 29)
There is a special wine consumed on St. Michael's Day called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne). This custom remains popular in some pockets of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, to the present day. As for food, there are a variety of traditions depending on nationality. In Ireland, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michealmas, while in Scotland, St. Micheal's Bannock -- a large, scone-like cake -- was an important part of the meal.
5. All Saints' Day (November 1st)
All Saints' Pastry is a popular treat on this feast day. Made of sweet dough, eggs, milk, and raisins, it usually comes in the shape of braided strands. In German All Saints' pastry is called Heiligenstriezel, in Polish Strucel Swiateczne, and in Hungarian Mindszenti Kalacska.
6. All Souls' Day (November 2nd)
Bread & Pastry
Baking special breads in honor of the souls in Purgatory is an ancient custom. All Souls' Bread or Pastry varies in name, content, and shape depending on country and ethnicity. The All Souls' pastry in northern Spain, for example, is called "bones of the holy" (Huesos de Santo), while the one in Catalonia is referred to as "little breads" (Panellets). In central Europe the All Souls' cakes that are shaped like hares are distributed to little boys while the ones that are shaped like hens are given to little girls. A similar custom in western Europe involves the preparing of Soul Food, cooked beans or peas or lentils, which are then served with some sort of meat dish. Though many of these culinary practices have a pagan origin (cults of the dead, fertility rites, etc.), they have been converted to good Christian use. Instead of bribing malevolent spirits or "feeding" departed love ones, these comestibles quietly remind us of those who no longer grace our dinner tables but with whom we one day hope to be united again at the eternal banquet. Further, there is a laudable custom in which the food that would have gone to feeding one's dearly departed is instead distributed to the poor. Hungarian Catholics once even invited orphan children into their homes on All Saints' and All Souls' Day and gave them new clothes and toys along with generous meals.
NOTE: Most of the information regarding customs has been taken from the books of Rev. Francis X. Weiser, S.J., listed below. We are biased toward Father Weiser's scholarship not only because of his expertise and knowledge of the Roman liturgical tradition, but because he was pastor of Holy Trinity German Church in the 1940s.
Meaning of the Season
Schema of the Season Customs of the Season
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