Celebrating the Marian Feasts of Summer
by Catherine Fournier
The two beautiful Feasts of the Assumption and the Queenship of Mary fall in the most beautiful time of the year - late summer - when the fields are overflowing with flowers and fresh produce. It seems only fitting and natural that the celebrations and festivities be held outside.
A family barbeque dinner, a day-long pilgrimage to a near-by Marian shrine complete with a picnic, or a multi-family get-together at a local park or beach all make wonderful opportunities to honour Mary. A few details will make the day special and transform it from an ordinary event to a memorable occasion! Remember to end the day with a rosary and some hymns sung to Mary.
Bright banners or streamers quickly add colour and excitement to any location. Easily made, and easily put up, they can be used year after year. If you can get helium ballons (my personal symbol of Hope) they could serve as an illustration of the Assumption.
Flowers are seasonal and beautiful, too. Why not make flower wreaths to grace the tables, and for the mothers and grandmothers to wear on their heads? When we honour our mothers and grandmothers, we honour Mary.
Music may not be visible but it is an important part of any gathering. There are CDs and tapes available of many types of music in honour of Mary. My favorite is a CD of Gregorian hymns. It is beautiful music, but it is also calming and melodic, lending atmosphere to an occasion without interfering with conversation.
Fire. In the form of candles, lanterns, fireworks or a campfire, fire is a powerful symbol of the Light of God, Prayer (as the sparks rise) and Sacrifice (the fuel is consumed to give us light, heat and sustenance).
As everyone knows, and the children will quickly remind you in case you've forgotten, food is at the heart of every feast and celebration. Each family has special favorites, but why not try some new ideas as well?
Barbequed fish. Whether it's freshly caught, or freshly brought home from the market, fresh fish cooked over an open fire is a real summer time treat. Fish is also a much used symbol in the Church. Saint Peter was told that he would be a 'fisher of men' and Christ is represented by a fish, because, like them, He came out of the darkness and depths to give us sustenance and life.
Herb butters for fresh sweet corn, and bread. Mix herbs (thyme, dill, parsley) and spices (garlic, chili powder, curry powder) with softened butter to taste. The herbs are a reminder both of the reputed miracle of herbs and flowers of the Assumption and of the savour and sweetness that Christ brings to our life.
A fruit basket made from a hollowed watermelon filled with fresh fruit salad and a little juice to keep it moist, looks spectacular and tastes wonderful. Try watermelon and canteloupe balls, fresh strawberries, blueberries, peach chunks and grapes. A feast for the eyes as well as the mouth!
A crown cake made with spices and decorated with lots of icing and candy sparkles will symbolise the Coronation of Mary.
Simple games help keep the children occupied so that the adults can chat to their heart's content. Co-operative games demonstrate the benefits to working together as God intends us to do.
Musical chairs: Two interesting variations of the game make it much less competitive. In one, as you take away chairs, everyone has to sit on the remaining chairs. Make sure they're strong! The second variation involves combining a treasure hunt with the music. When the music stops, everyone must race off and find an item. The first person back gets to pick the next treasure hunt item.
Three legged Race I don't need to describe this one, do I?
Treasure Hunt Our faith is our greatest everlasting treasure. Be as funny and creative as you want while making up the treasure hunt list, but be sure to include some items about Mary, like a rosary or a rosary ring, a holy card, a scapular, a marigold, or some other flower named for Mary. The co-operative aspect of this game will be increased if you mix up the age groups while making the teams.
Bobbing for Apples Traditionally a Hallowe'en game, I think it makes much more sense to get all wet in the summer time.