Ah, Autumn! One of the most wonderful times of the year, and not just because I happened to be born in it. To me, it always feels like a time of great shifting and reorganizing. School has begun and activities at church resume. The scattered focus of Summer is put away, as calendars fill and a rhythm comes back to most of our homes. The season is changing, and our summer of roaming has brought us back into time at home.
Along with new notebooks, sharpened pencils, the return of the church choir and new classes at church, I always get the urge to delve more into our faith in our day to day living during the fall. One of the ways I like to do this is to celebrate saint’s days, even if just in small ways, when they occur. This could be anything from working on a color sheet to reading a good book. Not every celebration requires us to bake a cake (although if you’re inspired, have at it!). What a feast day can be about is simply just taking notice: recognizing the heroes and people of great faith that have come before us.
As autumn stretches before us, there is no better time to jump into observing feast days. Some wonderful days are ahead of us as we make our way toward Advent! Here is a list of some upcoming fall feast days and a few ideas for how you and your family can celebrate:
September 21: The Feast of St. Matthew
St. Matthew was a tax collector who left his life working for the Romans to follow Jesus, becoming one of his apostles. Because of his former ‘day job’, he is the patron saint for accountants, bankers, book keepers, customs officials, security guards, and of course, tax collectors. If you or someone you love happens to work in any of these jobs, I say—time to go out for a nice lunch! Other fun ideas might include making a charitable donation with money or gathering goods around the house to donate.
If you’re in the mood for a treat, those little gold coins so popular on St. Nicholas day work perfectly for St. Matthew’s day! Silver dollar pancakes are also a fun tie-in to the ‘collecting money’ theme.
If you’re looking for something simple and straight to the point, you could always read the Gospel of Matthew as your intention for the day.
September 29: The Feast of St. Michael and All Archangels, Michaelmas
St. Michael is different from most saints in that he was an angel and not a human. He was considered the greatest of the Archangels, who defeated Satan in the battle for heaven.
One old tradition tells of Michael defeating the devil and throwing him into a thorny blackberry bush. In anger, the devil cursed the bush. Because of this, the berries were said to become bitter, so all the blackberries had to be eaten by the day of Michaelmas. Give a wink to this tale by enjoying a dish featuring blackberries–such as blackberry cobbler, blackberry muffins, ice cream with blackberries, or just a dish of the berries themselves!
This leader of the archangels is considered heaven’s greatest warrior, and so he is the patron saint of warriors, soldiers and police. Michaelmas is a wonderful time to let those you love who work in these fields know how much you appreciate their service. Michaelmas is the perfect time to donate to a cause that supports law enforcement or the military.
This time of year is also awash in new plants and décor for fall, and is also the time when Asters–also known as Michaelmas Daisies–begin to bloom or be available in plant nurseries. Treat yourself to a vase of these happy little flowers or put a pot of them on your porch, with a nod to St. Michael the Archangel and the coming of the beautiful season of autumn.
October 4: The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
As October arrives, the feast day of one of the most beloved saints in our family arrives–the Feast of St. Francis! Francis of Assisi was an Italian monk who lived a life of simplicity, poverty, and love for people and creatures alike. His devotion to animals is what he is most famous for in our culture today, and so a celebration of animals is how we like to honor his day.
Many churches celebrate this feast with a blessing of animals, where you can take your pet to church to get their annual blessing. This is a fun activity with kids, but if it’s not an option, there are many ways to honor animals on this feast day!
Remember the little creatures by putting out birdseed and making sure your birdbaths are filled. It might be a good day to take the dog to get groomed, or get the cat a new toy. If you don’t have pets in your home, there are ways to help animals in financial ways–animal rescues or shelters are always happy to receive donations, even if it’s just a bag of food or cat litter.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate at dinner, honor Francis’ Italian roots with a delicious Italian dinner (and aren’t the options endless?!) or a decadent dessert like Italian cream cake or tiramisu. If you’re being good, you can still enjoy a salad with Italian dressing! Don’t forget to recite the prayer of St. Francis before you begin, which is one of the most beautiful old prayers I’ve ever heard.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 833.)
My hope with this little compilation is that you see that there are many ways, both large and small, to observe a liturgical feast day. The point of them, however, is not to add ‘one more thing’ to your to-do list, but to make you pause and reflect; to see that there are so many different reasons to celebrate or pause for remembrance during our liturgical year.
Special days aren’t just for Advent and Lent, they happen throughout the year. By observing just a few, when we can, we enrich our faith, and the faith of our family.
How do you celebrate the early autumn feast days at home?