Our first celebration of Candlemas was one we will not soon forget.These two photographs show our Candlemas Tea centerpiece. Three pure white rose candles--one for each member of the Holy Family--floated in a bowl of holy water to signify the Purification and Presentation. At the last moment, Margaret decided to perch two turtledoves on either side. The effect was dazzling, soothing to the eye, and rich with symbolism. Earlier in the day, our beloved Pastor blessed the candles, doves, and several other religious articles, adding so much to the celebration for us.
Here are a few highlights from the menu, beginning with "Holy Simeon's Arms":
Eleven-year-old Theresa had the brilliant idea of adding mustard to represent the stinging, yet divinely inspired, words of Simeon's prophecy to Our Lady. (Mustard is spicy and even burny, yet it is good, not unlike the words of Simeon.)
I would have preferred sword-shaped toothpicks for these "piercing swords," but there is always next year! The children liked the combination of tomato and mild cheese, a good accompaniment for salty pretzels.
Although Mallomars (Nabisco) would have been far better to represent "Anna the Prophetess," they were unavailable at our local grocer. Hershey's brand York Peppermint Patty cookies were a perfect substitute--black on the outside to represent Anna as a widow, with a pure white (minty) center to show her goodness and holiness, and a cookie bottom to remind the children that Anna never left the floor of the temple, but stayed there praying day and night.
If there is one thing I love to serve, it is a bowl of strawberries. The children are always so pleased, and nothing is so lovely on the table. Of course, the bowl of fresh and lightly sweetened whipped cream helped to make "Pure Hearts" a hit. The children were interested in the fact that Mary's heart was completely sinless, yet she went to the Temple to be purified as an act of humble obedience. I reminded them that their hearts should remain as pure as Our dear Lady's, the perfect discussion to precede our First Saturday trip to Confession.
As the children picked up their warm pretzels, I repeated not only Simeon's prophecy (that the Child would be a light to the gentiles), but also the words Our Lord would say to his followers--"You are the light of the world"; "You are the salt of the earth."
Even these dear "snowman" teacups, a gift from Marybeth Foss to my daughters, served a purpose--blue for the Blessed Mother, white for her purity, and red for the love she bore her Son.
Just for fun, I told the children I'd hidden two more birds in the room (not exactly turtledoves, but close). It took all of two minutes for them to find this glistening pair of ornaments tucked in the chandelier, a gift from Lissa at Christmas.
Then it was off for the celebration worth infinitely more than all the Tea rituals ever planned: The Holy Mass! Our Mass was held in the evening, no less, with a slight sleet coming down from the heavens--just the way Alice O'Brien and Anne Maloney would have wanted it.
Maureen stood at the holy water font blessing herself for no less than ten minutes. As you can see, she has her "Name of the Father" down cold.
The celebration continued when we returned home. What would Candlemas be without a flood of candlelight, and where better to find it than our Advent Log, a tradition inspired by my dear friend Rebecca and her father? Candlemas marks the traditional end of the Christmas season, and the white birch bark just seemed to cry out "Purification"! Now I have no doubt that most of you good housekeepers put away your Advent Logs weeks ago, but, at least this year, it payed to procrastinate. I replaced the mottled cranberry Christmas candle with a pure white one, exchanging the tired greenery for silk dogwood and cherry blossoms in honor of Our Lady. A pair of Presentation turtledoves completed the picture, looking almost ready for Valentine's day nestled atop a scarlet bloom. Next year, I hope to use blue flowers and blue ribbon for this display, but, to make it happen on Friday, items on hand were better than nothing. (We are firm believers in using whatever is around when an idea strikes, and these silk flowers had been languishing in the garage since Margaret's First Holy Communion almost two years ago.)
By the flicker of that brave little row of candles, we sang "Oh Most Holy One," "Sing of Mary," and "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above." To be sure, there are better Candlemas hymns, but these were songs we knew and could sing with joy. No doubt the gentle Virgin from Nazareth heard and appreciated them--I could not help musing that hte pleasant glow of tapers felt almost like the light of her smile. Snuffing out our candles for the last time until next Christmas, we stayed a while longer to say the Rosary--the Sorrowful Mysteries for Friday, plus an extra decade to remember the Presentation.
The children went to bed happily after that, lingering only for a few extra kisses before heading upstairs. Agnes seemed to speak for all of them in observing smilingly that it had been "such a happy, holy day." With God's help, a few more precious seeds were sown in those seven ready hearts.
Centerpiece construction: Mom and Margaret, with Patrick to pour the two bottles of holy water
Mantle decoration: Mom and Margaret
Table Settings: Agnes, Theresa, Margaret, and Marie, with a word here and there from Mom
Menu Tweaking: Theresa
Pretzel piling and mustard mounding: Theresa
Cream whipping: Agnes
Strawberry arrangement: Margaret
All other food and beverage preparation: Mom
Best Boy: Patrick
Babysitting: Marie, with help here and there from the older three
Comedy Relief: Maureen