Catholic Food: The Right Time

by Kim Long

I don’t know if you have experienced the feeling of panic rising in your chest as you look at a calendar and realize you don’t have the extra week, weekend or day, until Christmas. It is a feeling unmatched! Being a list maker from childhood I was seldom caught up short until I took a hiatus from list making and decided to “wing it.” That worked for a while then I decided I needed more order in my life and so I am back to lists; but even with that the calendar can appear a bit slippery.

As I sit here I think of the variety of lists; gifts, food to be purchased, food to be cooked, cards, novenas to remember to pray (there are several great ones from Advent through Epiphany). In truth they can become overwhelming. I have a ritual that works really well for me and I wanted to share it with you.

In the middle of Advent I schedule a day when I am unavailable to everyone and I have a morning or afternoon with my spiral notebook and my lists. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, but does take commitment and planning. I cannot enter this ritual, though, without some tools.
I put on the kettle and reach for my favorite Christmas mug, while the water is heating I put on some non-manic, usually Gregorian chant, Christmas music and I breathe. When the water is hot I spoon three or four generous spoons of an ancient family spiced tea recipe into my cup, then I sit quietly and tackle the lists crossing off completed tasks and combining others.

The tea soothes me and pictures fill my head of my grandmother mixing up this treat which we only had at Christmas time. I have tried it prior to Thanksgiving before, and something wasn’t right – the timing was off and timing is a big part of every ritual! So I make the tea with some peaceful music playing, the sound of my pen scratching across the blank page creating possibilities and assuring success, and the scent of the tea enveloping me, cocooning me in all the possibilities the season offers. As I write and think and go through this last minute planning, my thoughts turn to Mary and Joseph and the almost ironclad assurance that their faith was in God as they traveled the distance to Bethlehem. She didn’t have all the modern conveniences many of us consider absolute requirements; she and Joseph leaned on one another and on God. I try to take a lesson from this reality. Christmas can become a financial nightmare as well as an emotional mess, so lean on your husband, your wife, your children and discuss what Christmas means. In most cases I believe we will discover that celebrating the Divine Love is our only absolute. Everything else, as we say in Louisiana, is “lagniappe.”

Letting go of a picture perfect outcome was my first step in really living the holiday season which is charged with expectations. How can we help it with magazines, television and department stores pummeling us with the message of consumerism gone crazy? So as I drain the tea from my cup, I rise restored and hopeful that rather than slouching toward Bethlehem weighted down by all of these unnecessary expectations, this year I will accompany Mary and Joseph and be present in the Advent journey, proclaiming, when the time is right, “Unto us a child is born.”

Spice Tea Mix

• 1 pound jar of Tang (you are free to substitute but it isn’t as good, I have tried it)
• 2 to 3 cups of sugar (I use two but some like it sweet)
• 1 cup Instant Tea (no lemon, just plain)
• ½ package Lemon Jello (the smaller one, not family size)
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon cloves

1) Stir ingredients until well blended and immediately pour into clean dry airtight containers (I usually use mason jars).
2) Add two to three heaping spoons of mix to a cup and add hot water, stir and enjoy.

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