I’ve always loved a good feast day. I remember the year our son was born, I was sooooo excited to take him to mass on his feast day. We were going to bring his icon of Saint Maximilian and his icon of Saint Jude, along with some medals and rosaries to be blessed. I dressed him in his cutest panda onesie and we were out the door and on to noon mass. It wasn’t until the end of mass, when Father pointed out that it was Max’s feast day that I realized the entire back of his onesie was black and white striped. If you are familiar with the story of Maximilian Kolbe, you can see why I was suddenly horrified that the entire church was now looking at my baby, who appeared to be dressed as a prisoner. (Maximilian Kolbe heroically died in the place of another prisoner at Auschwitz.) After mass Father told me he had in fact thought that I dressed Max as his patron saint, and we laughed about it before he blessed our various religious icons and medals.
Celebrating feast days is another way to connect students to the joy of faith. Often times in religious education we get so focused on what we want students to know that we forget who we want them to know. Our end goal should be a personal relationship with Jesus. While prayers and facts can certainly help strengthen that relationship and even help begin the process of forming the relationship, the experiences of joyfully lived faith are going to last a lot longer in our students’ memories than the exact wording of Exodus 20 and the 10 Commandments.
Faith is a family. In a family you celebrate birthdays, achievements, and anniversaries, both happy and sad. Feast days are a great way to introduce your students to their family of faith.
If you’re new to the feast day game, here are some ideas to help you get started. First, start with your school’s patron saint. Our school is Saint Joseph’s, and luckily, this was a feast my family celebrated in style growing up. Because I grew up in North Jersey with an Italian godmother, I learned to celebrate this feast the way the Italian American community does: with lots of food. For Saint Joseph’s day you have spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread, and zeppole for dessert. Last year our school had a marvelous procession in honor of our patron saint, which you can read about here, and I brought zeppole in for my students, even though I had to get up at 4 am to fry them all. So if your school has a patron, research their feast day. Maybe there are fun foods and traditions for your saint.
If your school doesn’t have a specific saint of obvious feast day, you could pick a feast that is special for the Church. Any of the Holy Days of Obligation would be an easy and obvious choice. For Immaculate Conception you could have a Mary crowning or do a special mass or living rosary. I’ve written a lot about All Saints Day on the blog because it’s my favorite, and the internet is full of great ideas for how to celebrate All Saints with students.
I think the formula I would use to start a feast day is this: prayer + food + fun. Students will remember the food and fun, which will hopefully bring them back to the prayer and the meaning of the feast day.
Wish us luck- for this year’s celebration of our feast day, my students are already scheming about how to get donuts out to the whole school. If you have a favorite feast day celebration or food, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments!