2012–Preparing for the Feast of Saint Brigid

My husband and I are planning a menu for our favorite Irish feast of the year. Thankfully, the eve of Saint Brigid’s feast day, when we do all our cross weaving, falls on a Tuesday! Corned beef and cabbage, (and Irish soda bread) here we come…

Here’s the order of events:

Today! Order the wheat for weaving. For the last several years I’ve been so pleased with the wheat from Dale Scott. I order the starter kits (just $22 including shipping) and that’s all I need to make several crosses. You can also order one of her handmade Saint Brigid crosses. They are lovely…

Soon. Clean the house–especially take down the Christmas cards that line the back wall. (And, put away all the ornaments that are all over the coffee table in the living room. And… finish writing the last of the Christmas cards!) Oh, my.

January 31st. Have a party! Wheat weaving, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a wee bit of Irish ale. There are great instructions on how to weave a Saint Brigid cross on this old post of mine.

February 1st. Bake bread and take it out into the community, Saint Brigid style. I’m looking forward to that day…

Note: If you’d like a signed copy of The Life of Saint Brigid to read to your munchkins or to send to some other child, just leave a comment or email me at jane@janegmeyer.com and I can sign and send you one. They are $15 including shipping if you contact me by the 20th of January. Otherwise, you can buy one from:

Amazon

Conciliar Press

Or order it from your local bookstore…

Or… you can simply listen to the book on my website–here’s the link to my page. There’s an audio file in the little swirly thing, read by my super favorite British accent friend, and fellow author, Chrissi Hart.

Happy upcoming feast!

Saint Brigid and Her Feast

Mixed and baked two loaves of my Never-Been-to-Maine Pumpkin Bread (recipe coming later this week–you’re gonna love it!)

Gave one loaf to an old schoolmate just diagnosed with cancer :(

Researching and writing The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare was one of the most rewarding writing experiences I’ve had yet. Not only did I enjoy getting to know fifth century Ireland, learning about the foods and habits of people of that time and about the budding days of Christianity where the people were so receptive to Christ’s love–but I absolutely came to admire this young girl named Brigid–this open-hearted daughter of a slave, who loved man and beast, rich and poor, and who always held Christ foremost in her heart.

Celebrating her feast day each year has enriched our lives and brought about some good and healthy family fun, plus a lot of introspection….So much of celebrating Saint Brigid happens on the eve of her feast day–January 31st… and yesterday being that day, I’d like to share with you some of what went on.

First, I read the story of Saint Brigid to our little one early in the day. We cuddled and he asked questions, and that set the tone for all that happened afterward. In the late afternoon, we baked, making pumpkin bread to share, and Saint Brigid oatcakes for our meal, placing a portion for her on the windowsill.

For our evening meal we ate roasted chicken (fifth century folk did a lot of roasting on feast days) and made colcannon, a traditional potato, leek, cabbage mixture. There were the Saint Brigid oatcakes, too, along with honey butter and jams. I had a few sips of ale too, which made me feel especially Irish.

And after dinner we washed up, then prepared the table for making crosses. John Ronan and I broke the seed heads off the stalks, we soaked the stalks in warm water for about an hour, then brought everyone to the table and started weaving. Morgan, our favorite neighbor friend joined us. She wanted me to make sure I mentioned how she was part of the cross weaving gang!

I was the weaving manager, giving lessons round the table. My husband and daughter are especially proficient, making better crosses than I can, but the two boys struggled. Andrew threw several wheat shafts up into the air after an attempt or two, and John Ronan, using pipe cleaners, still fumbled and didn’t quite get the gist of it. Morgan, a perfectionist at times, also spent a bit of time moaning about her non-cooperative fingers. But we didn’t give up! Aid arrived, and everyone ended up making something that resembled a cross. John Ronan was so proud of his creation that we immediately hung it over his bed. Love the way little people think with their hearts…

So on this beautiful day of the feast of Saint Brigid, I leave you with this prayer of hers that I love…

O God, bless my pantry!

Pantry which the Lord has blessed.

Mary’s Son, my friend,

come and bless my pantry!

Preparing for Saint Brigid’s Feast

Shared a loaf of rosemary bread with a homeless man who attends our church…

In the spirit Saint Brigid and her love for those in distress, I’m asking your prayers for the man I shared my last loaf of bread with, and for my hesitancy to give him more than bread. He could use a new sweater (his has gaping holes in the elbows) and a good shave, and probably a good meal in a warm home. Though giving bread to neighbors and strangers isn’t always easy–it also is a very small commitment on my part. I’m feeling prodded to move a bit deeper–and what a perfect time to do that as the feast day of Saint Brigid draws near!

The wheat is on its way and I’m beginning to look toward the eve of January 31st when our family will be weaving Saint Brigid crosses. If you’re interested in weaving a cross at home, I’ve found the wheat from Dale Scott to be extremely easy to work with. I’m not a wheat weaver by ANY stretch of the imagination, but her instructions are simple, and the wheat is clean and smooth and ready to work with… She is currently in the middle of a move from Idaho to Arizona, so shipping may be a tiny bit slower than usual, but there’s still plenty of time to order before the 31st rolls around!

Also there are many tutorials for learning to weave. Last year I posted a video, and along with that post are some written instructions that I found helpful.

Dale also weaves her own Saint Brigid crosses, and I purchased one last year; it is stunning.

If you want to know more about Saint Brigid and her wonderful life, here are some musings about her on my website, and you can also find out more about my children’s book The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare here. She’s worth getting to know.

If you’d like to weave a cross from another material than wheat–it can be done!

So, will you be weaving with me on the eve of 31st?

Apples–Indian Summer Style

Two loaves of molasses bread

Brought some on our apple picking adventure to share…

It was hot at Apple Lane Farm in Solvang. Really hot. Look at those sweet red cheeks…

We were picking golden delicious–just love how there’s moss growing on these beautiful trees.

I’ve always wanted to care for an orchard of fruit trees. Anyone have an orchard that needs caring for?

And every tree needs its own St Brigid’s cross nesting in the branches. I made this one from hay while waiting for the picking to get started…

After apple picking, we scuttled over to the gazebo in Solvang and had a picnic. The molasses bread made the rounds.

Did I mention it was HOT? All summer folks complained about the constant fog and cool weather. Well, we’re getting a whole dose of summer packed into just a couple of days. Indian Summer is here and I’ll be sleeping with an ice pack under my knees tonight!

More hot to come–tomorrow I’m going to try baking bread in my car. It’s LIKE an oven in there!!!

Fifth Century–Signing Off

No bread (the twenty loaves sort of did me in!)–but made LOTS of crosses

What fun it’s been this last month dipping back in time to the world of Saint Brigid. The 400′s were a time of big change in Ireland and I’ve enjoyed all the added research, and trying my hand at baking with new ingredients (barley, oats, and brewer’s yeast) and using new methods (clay pots and dutch ovens).

To really celebrate the feast day of Saint Brigid I made crosses here at home with my daughter…

…and we played a little bit with the wheat heads…

…then headed over to the private school where my big kids used to attend: St. John’s Academy. After telling a classroom of students about Saint Brigid, and reading them her story, we made crosses of pipe cleaners for them to take home. We teamed big kids up with little ones, but it was new to everyone… They worked so hard! In fact, we worked so hard there was no one left to grab a camera and take shots. You should have heard the buzz of chatter, and seen the little fingers bending and the concentration in their eyes as they listened to my instructions. Beautiful.

I did get some photos of their crosses after the fact, sticking out of their backpacks, ready to go home and be hung over their doors so that they might think of Christ through all their comings and goings. We talked about how Saint Brigid used the cross to tell the dying chieftain the story of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, and also mentioned how the Irish place them over their front doors, near their roof, as protection from fire. Every child in that room has had his own experience of fright from fire these last two years, so we all agreed that it would be comforting to have an added reminder of God’s protection in our homes.

There was one little boy that I spotted in the midst of all the fun, who was paired with another munchkin who was struggling to bend and turn and shape with his hands. His cross was a bit of a pipe cleaner jumble. He looked depressed when he showed me the finished product as we packed up to leave.

So, today, I’ll pop back over to school at lunch time, a few pipe cleaners hidden in my purse, and we’ll make a new one while eating a pbj together. I think that’s what Saint Brigid would have done.

Don’t you?

Fifth Century–Weaving a Saint Brigid’s Cross

No baking today

At the end of my picture book, The Life of Saint Brigid I tell the story of how a certain chieftain was dying…

On one of her journeys she comforted an old pagan chieftain as he lay dying. She found the chieftain in a desperate state, raving so that even the servants feared him. As Brigid sat by his bed, silently braiding the rushes that covered the floor, he became calm and asked, “What are you making?”

“This is a cross,” the abbess said, “which I make in honor of the Virgin’s Son, who died for us upon a cross of wood.”

The sick man listened to Brigid’s words of faith, of how Christ gave His life to save mankind, to save both the rich and the poor, the old and the new. And on that day the chief was baptized and died, one more saint added to heaven because of the work and faith of Saint Brigid, the Abbess of Kildare.

I love this story. This way of telling a story of the heart, through your hands.

I’ve made several St. Brigid’s Crosses this year and last–it’s traditional to do this on the eve of her feast day, the eve being January 31st, her feast day being the 1st of February… I’ve discovered that pipe cleaners are the easiest medium to teach children with–just be careful of the cut, wire ends. Here are some that I’ve made out of sea grass and pine needles, and such…

I’m excited, though, to have finally tried my hand at weaving with wheat. I ordered the wheat specifically for this purpose from Dale Scott a professional wheat weaver in Idaho, who both sells the crosses, and the kits so that you can make your own. It’s a very affordable thing to do, and a great tradition for your home each January 31st.

As you might be able to see in the video, I didn’t realize that the wheat needed to be soaked before weaving. I was all ready, sitting comfortably in the sun, my back to our lovely new stand of raspberries, and as I started folding the wheat in half, each stock snapped in half in my hand. We stopped filming and the only remedy I could think of was to soak the wheat in warm water for a bit. Thankfully it worked! Phew. Though my cross didn’t look nearly as neat and symmetrical as the finished one I purchased from Dale, I liked the homemade outcome of my effort and look forward to putting it up above our door in just a few days.

Here are some online instructions–of a woman in County Sligo, who does it much better than I do: Weaving a St Brigid\’s Cross on YouTube

And here are some written directions online that you might find helpful…

Oh, and one last note. The music accompanying my video is Prayer, sung by Haley Westenra. A favorite artist of ours here at home–a young New Zealand girl, of Irish descent, with a heavenly voice. I know you can’t hear my narration very well in the video; I think Miss Westenra’s song is much more appealing than anything I might ever have to say!!!

Hope you’re enjoying these last few days of January.

Blessings, and cheers…