Kupala Night, also known as Ivan Kupala Day (Feast of St. John the Baptist; Russian: Иван-Купала; Belarusian: Купалле; Ukrainian: Іван Купала; Polish: Noc Kupały) Many of the rites related to this holiday within Slavic religious beliefs, due to the ancient Kupala rites, are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification.On Kupala day, young people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith. The failure of a couple in love to complete the jump while holding hands is asign of their destined separation.Taraxacum wreath floating on waterGirls may float wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) on rivers, and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath.There is an ancient Kupala belief that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck, discernment and power would befall on whoever finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night, village folk would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs and especially the elusive fern flower.Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by the garlands on their hair, are the first to enter the forest. They are followed by young men. Therefore, the quest to find herbs and the fern flower may lead to the blooming of relationships between pairs of men and women within the forest.It is to be noted, however, that ferns are not angiosperms (flowering plants), and instead reproduce by spores; they cannot flower. IN THIS FEAST WODNIK, TOPIELEC AND UTOPIEC ARE MOST ACTIVE!
His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day
St John Vianney died on 4 August 1859, Vianney died at age of 73 – his body is incorrupt and is entombed at the main altar in the Basilica of Ars, France.
St. John Bosco
St. John Bosco (1815 - 1888) was an Italian priest who loved children. He was concerned for children wandering in the streets and getting into fights. So he gathered them, giving them fun and meaningful activities that also helped them to discover God. Don Bosco himself would entertain the kids with his acrobatic acts and magic tricks, using them as lessons about God. He founded the Salesian Society, based on the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. His feast day is on 31 January.
Our parish priests are some of the hardest working members of the Church. The typical parish priest works every weekend and holiday, lives in the same building as their office, and only gets one day off a week, not to mention they’re being asked to care for more souls and take on more responsibilities and roles than ever before.
Today is the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. To mark the occasion, we asked a some parish priests how we could best let them know we’re thankful for them and all the work they do for us.
In no particular order:
1. Pray for Your Priest(s)
“The most important thing a parishioner can do for his/her priest is pray for them. We are always praying for someone, even required to offer a Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation on behalf of our parishioners. It’s just good to know that they pray for us everyday.”
“A rosary, a holy hour, a small offering or a daily suffering offered for the priest.”
“Send cards to priests with assurances of prayer for their intentions.”
“The offering of prayers for the priest and his ministry. (It’s a great joy to know of prayers since I know that my life and ministry are only as fruitful as the people praying for me.)”
2. Cook Them a Meal, Especially on Their Busy Days
“It would be nice if someone made sure that the priest(s) of the parish had a nice cooked meal on Sundays and major holidays. We often have no cooks and after a long morning, it would be nice to come home to something we didn’t have to make.”
3. Celebrate Their Special Days
“Celebrating the priest’s birthday and ordination day are good thoughts, too.”
“It’s nice to be remembered on the day of my priestly ordination.”
4. Pray More, Complain Less
“The vast majority of interactions seem to revolve around a complaint about the priest, the parish, a parishioner, the music, the temperature in the church, a burned out lightbulb, a decision, etc. and rarely about the supernatural realities.”
5. Offer to Help
“Don’t wait to be asked! Priests are ordained to give, and it’s hard for us to ask for things.”
“Volunteer your time to the parish as a sign of support and service.”
“Consider increasing your tithe to show your support for the parish and priest.”
6. Go to Mass and/or Confession
“Nothing will make a priest happier.”
7. Write Them a Note Expressing Your Gratitude
“A note, especially to a priest with whom you’ve lost touch, letting him know how his priesthood impacted your life - and that you’re still with the program - means a lot.”
“My favorite thing to receive from people is a letter. Not a card with a few words. Those are nice too, but I love receiving a letter or a card with a substantial message in it. It is very powerful to hear somebody describe exactly HOW the thing I said or did was so fruitful for them. It is a reminder that Jesus is a lot bigger than me and he can do great things with the little I have to offer.”
“I really appreciate when people say to me personally or send notes of gratitude: "Thanks for your priesthood”, “Thanks for being our pastor.” ‘Thanks for answering the call.’”
“Tell them that they have made a difference in your life.”
“Write them a thank you with a tone of appreciation.”
“Simple notes mean a great deal to priests these days. Things like notes of appreciation after funerals and weddings a simple compliment after a well prepared homily.”
“Being specific helps!”
8. Say Thank You
“Thank the priest for every Mass. Even if you don’t necessarily like the priest, as the Mass is always about the presence of Jesus.”
“Even something as simple as saying to the priest after confession “Thank you for your ministry and I will pray for you” can mean a great deal.”
9. Give Them a Compliment
“Look for opportunities to compliment priests. Even ones you don’t particularly like.”
“I always cheer up when someone tells me after Mass, ‘That was a beautiful Mass, Father.’”
10. Look Out for Their Wellbeing
“Encourage priest to take time off.”
11. Save the Drama for Yo Mama
“Avoid and discourage gossip about priests and parishes.”
“Don’t gossip or criticize, instead offer to help and to build up. I wonder how many vocations were ruined when young people hear adults tear down the priest, usually because of some petty parish dispute.”
12. Let Him Know You Have His Back
“When you witness a situation when someone is being rude to a priest, let him know that you noticed and express compassion.”
13. Establish a Relationship
“Don’t tell him what you don’t like if that’s the first time you’ve bothered to talk to him.”
“Say hello before telling him what’s wrong.”
14. Have Realistic Expectations and Be Helpful
“He’s probably not a plumber, so don’t expect him to fix the leaky pipe. But definitely do ask him if he knows it’s leaking.”
“Always assume good will. Offering feedback is helpful, but criticism and complaint given without humility and sincere love is draining after a while. “
15. Don’t Be a “Priest Collector”
“Don’t think that you have to have the priest over every Sunday. Don’t expect to be the priest’s friend - he is your pastor/assistant and he needs to keep things professional. Don’t brag to fellow parishioners how “Close you guys are” as then that creates animosity or jealously - and THAT stresses the priest out.”
16. Be Supportive
“Whenever there is something that is stressful, such as a difficult time during the parish, I know “reinforcement” is appreciated. I haven’t had much of that in my first 5 years (yet) but I recall some tremendously difficult funerals where people sent a nice note. I recall discovering a stash of notes here at St. Mary’s from 23 years ago when the school closed. The newspapers and some very vocal but few people were out for the pastor, using attacks of “racist” and “uncaring.” The pastor, then, saved all the dozens of notes from people offering to him their understanding at the difficult decision he made.”
17. Give Him Space
“Sometimes it’s good to be just left alone, too. Stay away from what is called “unkind kindness” which is assuming Father is (Lonely, depressed, stressed, anxious, etc) when sometimes he needs to just blow off some steam.”
18. Invite Him Over
“It’s nice when people think to invite me to family gatherings: special birthdays or anniversary celebrations, holiday dinners (even though I usually decline because I’m with my own family – it’s nice to be invited).”
19. Strive for Holiness
“Ultimately, being the saint God desires them to be! There’s nothing more exciting for a priest than witnessing holiness in the lives of the people to whom he ministers; not only is that an experience of grace that his labor is bearing fruit but it’s also tremendously edifying in his own pursuit of holiness.”
I hope this list has inspired you to do something for your priest. Remember, each priest has his own preferences and ways that make him feel appreciated. Some may really like being invited over for dinner, while other priests may recharge with a quiet dinner alone in the rectory. Every priest I contacted mentioned a well-thought, meaningful letter or card mentioning specific ways he helped you. Maybe that’s a great place to start. No matter what you do, let’s make sure we let our priests know just how much we care for them.
Feel free to add additional ways or creative takes on the above in the comments. All you priests out there, let us know what you like!
I know a bit about wassailing, but are there any other particularly noteworthy Christmas traditions for getting lit up?
A thing I think has been lost to the snowy mists of Christmas past is that in a lot of cultures, Christmas used to basically be Halloween except for drinking instead of candy. Some culture still have this, but in mainstream culture, Christmas’s former rowdy nature has been largely forgotten.
Wassailing or variants thereof are one of the biggest drinking traditions tied to the Christmas season. The word wassail has its origins in the Old English phrase wæs (þu) hæl, meaning “be (you) healthy,” the correct response to which was drinc hæl, or “drink healthy.” The traditional drink called wassail is a mulled cider or ale with cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, etc. topped with toast. Modern versions are made usually with wine or mulled ale, fruit juice, bits of fruit and other business.
I won’t go into the details of the history of wassailing and feudalism and what have you, but suffice it to say, the tradition became that neighbors would go door to door singing a blessing upon each house in exchange for food and drink. This is the background behind such songs as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (“So bring us some figgy pudding” etc), and, obviously, “Here We Come A-Wassailing.”
In Wales there is a traditional variant called Mari Lwyd where you still go door to door asking for drinks, but you bring a skeleton horse with you:
This tradition is experiencing a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
Scandinavian countries used to have a similar tradition called “going Yule goat,” where you had a goat monster with you instead of a skeleton horse. The man-sized goat-thing would, at various points in history, threaten violence or deliver presents in exchange for potent potables. This, as far as I know, has largely fallen out of favor in recent years.
Although wassailing has largely devolved simply into caroling in many places, its origins actually lie in a ritual designed to ensure an abundant apple crop in the coming year. People in costumes would go to the orchards and sing songs to frighten off evil spirits. Then they would make offerings of slices of toast speared on the branches of the tree. Cider drinking was involved in this process, I recommend it. There is an extended scene of orchard-wassailing in the first issue of Santa Claus vs the Martians, which is, as far as I know, pretty accurate except for the parts with Santa Claus and Martians.
A variant on wassail (the drink) is one called Lambswool, which is ale shaken or stirred until it has a big foamy head and then mixing in baked apples. This particular drink is traditionally enjoyed on Twelfth Night aka Epiphany, where you drink it while you eat some king cake. (Remember, whoever gets the bean is the Lord of Misrule for the night.)
In Nordic countries they drink glögg for the winter holidays, but especially for Saint Lucy’s Day. This is a mulled wine served with raisins and almonds mixed in, and usually with ginger snaps or other treats such as lussekatter or rice pudding on the side. In Germany and Austria, they enjoy a similar beverage called Glühwein around the Christmas season.
For a time in America, *the* drink at Christmastime was a cocktail called a Tom and Jerry, which is warm eggnog with rum and brandy mixed in. (The drink predates the cartoon by a fair piece, so it is not named after the cat and mouse; in fact, the drink and the cartoon are named after the same source, a book called Life in London: Or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom. As a result of that book, the term “Tom and Jerry” was for a time a generic term for rowdy boys, hence its use as the name of some rowdy cartoon animals.) Anyway, this was the thing people drank at Christmas until about the 1960s, when people forgot about it, I guess? Some people still drink them, but they’re much more regional now, mainly in the Upper Midwest.
There are plenty more, but I’ll limit myself. One more for the road:
December 27, the third day of Christmas, is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, aka “The disciple Jesus loved.” John was the only apostle who wasn’t martyred, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. As the story goes, his enemies once served him a chalice of poisoned wine. Luckily, John blessed the wine before he drank of it, and the poison evaporated out of the glass in a puff of smoke shaped like a serpent.
In memory of that, some people celebrate his feast day by drinking the love of St John. This particular drink is made with red wine, cloves, sugar, cinnamon, other stuff, and boiled until all the interesting parts are gone. Before dinner on this feast day, the family will drink a toast wherein the father lifts his glass to the mother and says, “I drink you the love of Saint John,” to which she replies, “I thank you for the love of Saint John,” and then turns and passes on the toast to the next member of the family and so on until everyone has been toasted.
And there you go. Hopefully this is enough to keep you warm inside and out this holiday season.