Every year, I try to think of something I can do, some project that will take a full year. Everything I’ve tried so far—aside from this blog—has failed to last the full year. For example, I’ve tried reading the entire Bible in one year. It’s not that bad—you only have to read three chapters per day, and most of the time, the chapters are short, so it takes less than half an hour per day—but if you fall behind, it quickly catches up to you.
Once or twice, I considered doing some sort of knitting version of Julie and Julia. If you’ve never seen the 2009 movie based on a true story, a brief synopsis is that a young woman named Julie Powell, who loves Julia Child (a by-then deceased but still very famous chef and main author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking), decides to cook every single recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook in one year, while writing a blog about her progress. (Simultaneously, the movie jumps back and forth between Julie and Julia, telling Julia Child’s story, which, partly because she was such an incredible and unique woman and partly because she’s played by the inestimable Meryl Streep, really made the movie. But, I digress.) I thought I might buy a book of knitting patterns and work every pattern in one year. However, the difficulty of finding what I want yarn-wise in Japan and of planning out the unknowable time it would take to knit each project put that already-questionable goal on the shelf a bit longer.
So, what to do?
In my last post of 2014, I discussed the sad loss of Christmas carols from church services during the Christmas season. I talked about traditions, and how they help bring alive your history, theology, etc. I’m not Catholic or Protestant, the two groups of Christians who usually follow the liturgical calendar, so, as an Evangelical*, I unfortunately know very little of Christian traditions—most of which are wrapped up in the liturgical calendar. From childhood, I’ve always wanted to know more about both Christian traditions and Jewish traditions, and at least a few times a year, I find myself looking up some tradition or feast or other.
So, long story short, that’s what this year will encompass! I think learning both Christian and Jewish traditions in one year is too much, so I’m starting with Christian traditions. It’s important to note that traditions may have sprung up to commemorate important events or people, and that some of these events or people may be extra-Biblical (meaning not recorded in the Bible) or specific to one small group of Christians. For example, The Feast of the Presentation of Mary commemorates Mary being presented to the temple as a child. While this was a Jewish custom and therefore probably did occur, it’s not recorded in the Bible. Furthermore, there are elements of the (apocryphal) story on which the feast is based that are very thoroughly Catholic and so specific to one denomination of Christianity rather than common to all or almost all of Christianity. As another example, there’s a holiday called Eid il-Burbura, or Saint Barbara’s Day, commemorating the Christian martyr named Barbara. However, it is only celebrated by Middle Eastern Christians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. In the interests of time, I’ve omitted these sorts of traditions. Maybe another year I can research and celebrate area- or group-specific Christian traditions, but there are simply too many for me to learn them all in one year.
Now, unfortunately for my plan to follow the Christian traditions throughout the year, it’s not as simple as randomly assigning various recipes to evenly-spaced days. In reality, the Christian liturgical year (basically, the calendar of Roman Catholic observance) begins with Advent—in November! The calendar goes something like this:
- Advent (late November/early December through December 23)
- Christmas (December 24 through Sunday after January 6)
- Ordinary Time (Sunday after January 6 to Septuagesima Sunday, which occurs on a range of late January to late February, depending on Easter’s date)
- Pre-Lenten Season (Septuagesima Sunday, which is late January to late February, until Ash Wednesday, which occurs on a range of early February to early March, depending on Easter’s date)
- Lent (Ash Wednesday to the weekend of Easter)
- Paschal Triduum (the weekend of Easter)
- Easter (Easter Sunday, which varies from March 22 to April 25, depending on the year, until the 49th day after Easter Sunday, which varies based on Easter’s date and so may fall on a range of late May to mid-June)
- Ordinary Time (from the end of Easter Season, which ranges from late May to mid-June, until the start of Advent, which is late November or early December)
Because Christmas Season is ongoing—and I’ve therefore missed quite a bit of it by now—at the beginning of the year, I decided I’m going to skip the remainder of the Christmas Season and start with Ordinary Time. I’m mostly using the liturgical calendar, but also seeking other sources since the liturgical calendar doesn’t include certain traditionally Christian holidays, such as St. Valentine’s Day (more on that in February!). I’m also omitting a ton of feasts and celebrations that are specific to one small group of Christians or which are based on apocryphal writings. So the calendar for post-Christmas Season January this year will look like this:
- January 12: beginning of Ordinary Time
- January 18: Feast of the Confession of Peter
- January 18-25: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
- January 25: Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle
In addition to my regular weekly blog posts normally released on Friday afternoons (U.S. time), I’ll provide a brief introduction at the end of the previous month giving a preview for the calendar of events and traditions for the coming month and what supplies you will need if you want to follow along with my activities. For example, if I planned to make Valentine cookies, I would record what basic flavor of cookies I would be cooking, the date on which I would cook them, and a list of ingredients you would need to gather.
For January, there is no preparation necessary.
Here’s to a year of traditions!
*Generally speaking, groups of Christians or so-called Christians can be divided into five groups: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, and Cult. The Catholic Church was probably officially founded with the first official pope (Pope Leo I) around 440 AD, though the Catholics believe their pope lineage can basically be traced back to the Apostle Peter and Catholics therefore believe their church’s founding was with Pentecost, which occurred a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Orthodox denominations also consider their foundation to arise directly from Jesus and the apostles; nevertheless, though many of their observances are Jewish in origin, many also mirror Catholic observances. They do not believe in a pope but, like the Catholic Church, their first official leaders existed as early as the 400s AD. Example: Eastern Orthodox Church. Protestant denominations are those which were essentially founded by leaders who openly protested against certain teachings or practices of the Catholic Church. Example: Lutheran. Evangelical denominations are those which existed secretly in an unorganized fashion (that is, they had no central leader or leadership residing over the entire denomination) with unknown dates of origin (due largely to the required secrecy of circumventing the Catholic Church), and then sprung up out of the woodwork when free to do so; or denominations with similar beliefs and practices which arose more recently. Example: Baptist (from Anabaptist). Cult denominations are basically those which add to accepted Christian teaching in ways not supported by Scripture, often with very specifically-dated predictions of events (which have all failed to occur in those cases where the specified dates have passed); because their teachings are extra-Biblical, their leaders create new writings (which often directly contradict the Bible) or claim he/she communes directly with God. Example: Peoples Temple (led by Jim Jones).
Footnote: Another fun source of information regarding Christian traditions and family traditions is Around the Year with the Trapp Family (yes, the family from The Sound of Music), written by the mother/stepmother, Maria Von Trapp. It talks a lot about their religious and regional traditions, how they practiced them in their homeland Austria, and how they had to change their practices when they moved to America. Somehow (I’m not sure exactly how, because the publishing date is 1955, which means the copyright is not expired, so it’s not yet public domain, which means—I think—that it shouldn’t be available for free online yet), you can actually read it free here (https://www.ewtn.com/library/FAMILY/TRAPP.TXT). It’s text only, without any of the images that might have been in the original book.
EDITED 4 Jan 2015 to add Orthodox to the list of denominations.
EDITED 4 Jan 2015 to add Feast of the Confession of Peter to the calendar.