Feast days – “but where is the feast”

Between waking up and preparing breakfast, I asked Celia about the significance of this day – November 11. This kind of dialogue is one way of sharing about the diverse cultural traditions and experiences that we bring into our relationship.

Of course, for us here in Canada it is Remembrance Day,

a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. […] Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” (Wikipedia)

I am honouring, without special form, the men and women who serve a country and do this by conviction and for the common good. I believe it is each individual’s choice to serve by going to war – but there are times where people in power will make the ‘choice’ and sacrifice the lives of so many for their purpose. I have difficulties celebrating war heroes and indirectly glorifying the practice of armed conflict and the use of any form of violence- whether as an act of aggression, liberation, or defence.

For me, there are many more associations with this particular day in the calendar. First it is the feast day of St. Martin (Martini or Martinstag in German). Historically, this was the day when the farmers had to pay their tithe or rent. In return for making the rich and powerful richer, the poor and working people were allowed on that day to eat well, drink, and enjoy games.

In the town where I spent my youth, St. Martin is not only celebrated in the church as a patron saint and role model, but there is a tradition going back to the Middle Ages that has evolved into the annual festival of the “Gansabhauet”.

Gansabhauet in Sursee (Photo http://www.sempachersee-tourismus.ch)

I shared with Celia my memories of that colourful day, which was a local holiday with a half day off in school and the stores closed in the afternoon. The town crowd would gather in front of the old city hall, and by three o’clock a drum roll would announce the start of the main event – the beheading of the goose. I was only once old enough to enter my name into the lottery to get a turn at claiming the grand prize. It takes several candidates before one is successful.

For the children and youth, there were other activities, like making funny faces (and get rewarded with a piece of Swiss cheese), or the potato sack race with the goal to eat a sausage that is dangling off a string in the air, or climbing a freshly peeled spruce tree to reach wrapped presents that are placed in the tree top. I was never a good climber or very athletic, but at least I tried once or twice, only to be laughed at by the crowd for my lack of skill and strength.

“But where and when is the feast?” Celia kept asking. In my memory, there is no feast – like a special dinner – associated with Martini or with any other feast day. In the Roman Catholic tradition that dominated my upbringing, the

…Church assigns one date out of the year for each and every canonized saint — known as the saint’s feast day. The saints are remembered on their individual feast days with special mention, prayers, and possibly a scripture reading. (dummies.com)

Sorry, no big dinner today, just the regular fare – which is more consistent with a simple lifestyle and the recognition that every day is special.

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