Due to a mild plotting snafu, Midwinter and the Feast of the Beloved Dead (Sviata Vechera, in other words. I’m not sure how to pronounce the Ukranian and I keep trying to put it to the tune of “Hakuna Matata”, despite the best intentions in the world) were not the same day/night. I celebrated Midwinter on the night of the 21st, with an altar and small celebration for my spirits (not just the ancestors).
While I didn’t stay up all night to greet the new dawn (had to get up to start cooking), I did stay up far too late tending the lights, among other things.
The next day, I started the great Day O’ Cooking. It went… really really well. Nothing burned. Nothing scorched. The roast was a tad bit overdone but still passably juicy. And during the whole process I was flying. Just having a blast mixing and patting and kneading and putting stuff together. The menu went as plotted here, with the small addition of homemade bread rolls made with garlic powder (tasted good but in the future, must use normal flour instead of bread flour.)
The highlight of the day was getting my dad’s friend J (a 60+ year old bachelor) to come over and have a plateful. His son is not particularly interested in anything but his money, so he hardly visits him. J is very stubborn about not “intruding” on our family stuff, even when we invite him. We keep on inviting him because, fuck, he’s more of an uncle than the blood relation I have. So I count it a victory that he voluntarily came over for food. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
We started eating too quickly for purty pictures of pretty food, but I did take a picture of the tray I put together for the Feast. (I ended up filling the silver tray with water to discourage ants. Works pretty good.)
The tray is a thrift store find. The table is from my grandmother. The candles have a specific meaning- the larger one on the left is my ancestor candle, lit as often as I am able. The little pinkish one on the right is a new idea for me- its me. Sorta. You see, most of the candles in my house that I buy are for offerings or spells or both. But this little vaguely-berry-scented candle was a gift from a friend to me. I like the symbolism of my own small flame standing next to the flame of my ancestors. The colors were an unintended bonus. The tray set out in the front room (no burning candles all night long because of fire hazard, sad to say) all the long night.
…… which brings me to an interesting dilemma. When you can’t, due to space and vermin constraints, leave out food offerings for days at a time, what do you do with a ritual meal?
I fed it to the animals.
I do have a few reasons why I chose to do so. Ms. Graveyarddirt’s post on Sviata Vechera mentions the custom of spreading hay on the table. In Christian tradition, its supposed to represent the hay in the manger of the Christ-child. She mentions that she views it more as a sacrifice and a thank you for the spirits of the animals eaten throughout the year. My thought was that, once the ancestors had had their fill, the animals that support and nourish my family could be supported and nourished by my dead (symbolically, at least.) Also, if I “wasted food” by throwing it out, my grandmother (one of my beloved dead) would possess the rosebushes and strangle me.
Another reason was that it felt disrespectful to leave a full meal at a graveyard to clutter up and dirty it. The graveyards around here are either in town (literally smack-dab in the middle of the city) or out in the country where the animals that would eat the offering would make a god-awful mess while doing so. A few pieces of unwrapped candy is one thing, but a platter-full of food is another. (And if I left it outside on the property, the chickens and/or dogs would find it and eat it anyway. Might as well make a ritual of necessity [plus the mules really liked their bites of cornbread].)
So that was my Feast of the Beloved Dead, my own little version of Sviata Vechera (what a wonderful phrase!). Thanks be to Ms. Dirty, for a most welcome kick in the ass. You’re a peach, m’dear. An absolute peach.