Sharing the saintly feasts of Advent with little ones

Honey cake

Honey cake

When the nieces and nephews were little, we enjoyed nothing more than celebrating the saintly feasts of December – St. Nicholas on Dec. 6; the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12 and St. Lucy (Santa Lucia), Dec. 13 – with them.

At home, the festivities centered around the family table. There, prayers and a bit of historical perspective on the saints we were celebrating preceded a meal with special foods linked to the culture and customs of the lands where those holy people dwelt.
As the kids grew, went off to college and pursued their adult lives, those celebrations ebbed and finally transformed into wonderful memories. Now though, with the arrival of a new generation in the person of great-niece Indigo (Indie), there’s about to be a joyful resurgence.
This year, as Advent approached, Indie’s sparkling presence, her joyful approach to food and her obvious enjoyment of grace at table – got me thinking of bringing those December feasts to the table again. And in light of Pope Francis’ visits this year to the Holy Land and Turkey, it seemed like modern takes on dishes from the Middle East would be appropriate.
From searches on the Internet, I chose interesting recipes with ingredients that hark back in time to the table the Virgin Mary would have shared as a child with her parents, Ann and Joachim and a dish St. Nicholas of Myra might have enjoyed in what is now Turkey.
To help complete the atmosphere, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, it would be great to take a break from Advent purple and set the table with a blue cloth and blue and white flowers. A “history lesson” for the young ones before the meal could focus on how Mary, under the title, “The Immaculate Conception” is the patroness of the United States.



From a favorite source — the Fisheaters web site – I culled an explanation of The Immaculate Conception that may help little ones understand what that title means: from the moment of her Conception, Mary was filled with grace by by God who knew that she would say ‘yes’ to the Angel Gabriel and become the mother of Jesus. Exactly nine months from now, on Sept. 8, we will celebrate Mary’s birthday.

And with St. Nicholas, focusing on him as a great bishop, giver of charity, helper of humankind is a great way to go. Visit Loyola Press at and you’ll find a wonderful prayer and poster of the saint to share with children which shine a light on just who St. Nicholas is.



Mary’s Honey Cake



-1/3 cup melted butter
-3 eggs
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup sugar
-½ tsp. Vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp. Baking powder
-1/2 cup flour, all purpose, pre-sifted, plus 1 tbl.


-1/2 cup butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/3 cup honey
-1/2 cup slivered almonds
-1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Directions: Butter a 9” pan. Preheat the oven to 400F. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until frothy. Add the melted butter and mix well. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add to the previous mixture. Mix gently. Pour in the prepared pan and bake 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping: Melt the butter on medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the topping gently on the cake. Return to the oven for another 15 – 20 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool and serve.
St. Nicholas’ Tabbouleh

-1 cup bulgur
-1 2/3 cups boiling water
-1/3 cup olive oil
-1/3 cup lemon juice
-1 cup chopped green onions
-1 cup chopped fresh parsley
-1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
-5 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
-1 tsp. Salt
-ground black pepper to taste

Directions – Combine the bulgar and boiling water in a large bowl. Cover and set aside to soak for one hour. Add oil, lemon juice, onions, parsley, mint, tomatoes and cucumber, toss well to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Next week, Keeping the Feast will share some ideas for celebrating the feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Lucy in the home.


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