Tin Can-dle Lanterns
by Catherine Fournier
The feast of the birth of John the Baptist is unusual because it celebrates his birth on earth, rather than his re-birth into Heaven, as it is with most saints (who's feast days fall on the day of their death.) From the earliest times in the Church, John the Bapist has been honoured as the herald of the Son of God, the 'voice crying in the wilderness', and so it is his birth that we celebrate.
Christ came to be the 'light of the world', and so John's feast day is celebrated with light, with bonfires. The celebration of this saint was one of the most important celebrations in the Church through the Middle Ages, though it has declined somewhat in recent times.
The use of fire and bonfires, light and heat in the darkness of night, stems from the customs of pre-Christian ancestors, as so many of our customs do. In many parts of Europe, this midsummer feast was celebrated with singing, dancing and of course, festive food. Food that can be cooked over a bonfire, or barbeque is especially appropriate for this feast.
For many families, a bonfire may be a somewhat impractical proposition. Not many landlords take kindly to conflagrations on apartment balconies, and many municipalities ban outdoor fires altogether for some very good reasons. Candle lanterns are a safe, property-respecting, fun alternative.
They're really pretty too.
What You Need:
Optional: spray paint, length of wire for a handle.
Children strong enough to wield a hammer (even with some help) can make their own candle lanterns. Any size of can is suitable, as long as your hand and a candle will fit inside it. Wash the can well, and make sure the lid hasn't left any sharp bits along the top edge. Bend them down securely or cut them off if necessary.
Using a marker, or crayon, mark out a design on the outside of the can. The more points the design has, the more light will shine through. An outline of a flame, a cross, or a church are all easy to do. A rooster (for Saint Peter, feast day June 29) would be interesting, as would a fish, or a dove shape. Encourage your imagination!
Once you have a design worked out, place one end of the dowel inside the can and sit on the other end. Alternately, if you have a workbench or vise, hold the other end of the dowel in it. It just needs to be held firmly and securely while you hammer out the design. Hammer the nail through the can and into the dowel at each point of your design. The dowel will keep your hammering from denting and bending the can. Try not to hammer the nail too far into the wood of the dowel, it gets tiring pulling it out!
When you are done making holes for your design, make two holes on opposite sides of the top for the wire handle, if you are making one. Spray paint the outside of the can with automotive or metal spray paint, which will resist the heat of the candle better than other kinds of paint.
Secure a candle at the bottom of your can with a bit of melted wax. Wait for evening and light it! A procession of candle lanterns around your yard or house praising John the Baptist as the herald of the Light of the World is a wonderful summer-time tradition and memory for the whole family.
A blessing for your lights:
Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord
All: Who made Heaven and eath
Leader: Let us pray. O Lord God, Father almighty, unfailing Ray and Source of all light, sanctify these lights, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to thee, Who are Light eternal, Through Christ our Lord. (Sprinkle with holy water)
For more Catholic traditions about this and many other feast days, I recommend Catholic Traditions in Cooking by Ann Ball.