|The Annunciation by Fra Filippo Lippi|
The Solemnity of the Annunciation, set exactly 9 months before Christmas, is a feast to celebrate the beginning of the God's plan for salvation. A principal Marian feast, this day is marked throughout the Christian year in the prayer practices of the Rosary (first joyful mystery) and in the Angelus. We celebrate when the angel, St. Gabriel, came down from heaven to tell Mary of God's plan to impregnate her by the Holy Spirit. And we also celebrate her Fiat, Mary's humble yes, that began a plan greater than she could have imagined.
The above painting is my favorite depiction of The Annunciation because you can see God's hands reaching down from Heaven, sending forth the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, to place His Son, Jesus, into the Virgin's womb. What a beautiful image of the Holy Trinity!
Even though this special day often falls during the Season of Lent, this Feast is a Solemnity, so our penance obligations are lifted for the day. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate to enjoy a sweet treat that you otherwise might not be or for example, for us, we will enjoy meat with our dinner meal.
Another interesting fact: As this date is close to the vernal equinox (March 20th), it was marked as one of the "Quarter days" from medieval and early modern England. The other three are the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Michaelmas, and of course, Christmas.
In Sweden, the Feast of the Annunciation is also called "Vaffelsdagen" or 'Waffle Day.' This came about because the vernacular of two phrases was remarkably similar. It was originally known as which was: "Vårfrudagen" or 'Lady Day,' which, even if you don't speak Swedish, looks pretty close.
Because of the focus on the coming of Christ to us in the form of a human within the womb, this Feast day has always had a celebration of the pre born associated with it. This was the moment the Word became Flesh, written clearly for all Christians in the Gospel of John. It is our celebration of the actual Incarnation of Christ. In today's day, this is more important than ever, and it is a great time to remember the Unborn in prayer and in action.
In England, farmers used to plant their crops the day after this Feast, following a rhyme that stated:
Saint Gabriel to Mary flies:
This is the end of snow and ice.
In keeping with the above mentioned traditions, both waffles and a seed cake are perfect for this Feast! We will probably enjoy a waffle breakfast, maybe with some blueberries? Lingonberries are tradition in Sweden, but I'm not sure where I'd find them around here. The seed cake ties into the English traditions with growth and a new harvest on the forethought of farmers' mind. This recipe from RecipeWise looks like what I'd imagine (plus it reminds me of Mrs. Pattmore). I am not a fan of caraway seeds though and would substitute poppy seeds.
For your dinner table decorations, you could set the table with flowers that honor Our Lady. A few that tie directly to the Annunciation are red carnations (symbolize 'incarnation'), baby's breath (innocence, spirit) and ivy (eternal fidelity).
Crafts + Activities
Puppets! Yes, please! Love this idea from Lavatican. Just print, glue on to popsicle sticks, and reenact the scene between the Holy Mother and St. Gabriel. If your kids aren't up for puppets yet, you can always just color in the coloring page.
Pull out Mary and the Angel from your Nativity sets. Christmas wasn't too long ago - you still remember where you stored them away, right? I think I do…
Plant some marigold seeds. This flower was named especially for Mary, and this activity notes that spring really is coming! A great way to talk about how just like seeds grow under the dirt, babies grow in their mama's bellies where we cannot see them, but we know they are there.
Listen to some Marian hymns - there is a whole album by the Daughters of St. Paul dedicated to them on Spotify.
Pray and Act for the Unborn - say a special prayer for the Crisis Pregnancy Centers in your area, pray a rosary in front of an abortion clinic, donate diapers/wipes or gently used clothing to a Center in your area.
Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories - many other Children's bibles include this important part of Christ's story, so check whichever bibles you have in your house, too! This is just one of our favorites.
Another lovely book by Tomie dePaola: Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The Life of Mary by Inos Biffi + illustrated by Franco VignaziaPrayers
The Life of Jesus by Mary Billingsley - I have not read this one yet, but it looks intriguing as it shows the mysteries of the Holy Rosary in pictorial form with the Biblical story for each one.
Talk about how the Hail Mary prayer that we pray incorporates the archangel Gabriel's greetings to Mary when he came to visit her.
The Angelus is prayed at 6am (more power to you if you're up and praying at that time!), noon, and 6pm. Try for all three, or just hit one or two. Again, unless your children can read or already know the responses, this might be hard with younger kids.
The Word is made Flesh. Let us Rejoice! Happy Feast of the Annunciation to you and yours!
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