by Lindsay Schlegel
When you live by the Catholic liturgical calendar, you learn to appreciate the rhythms of feasting, fasting, and striving for holiness in ordinary time. There is particular beauty in the reality that the Church around the world pulses with this rhythm and has done so for centuries. There is another kind of beauty that comes from bringing that calendar into your home and personalizing it for your own domestic church.
Celebrating baptismal days and feast days allows families to consistently recall and rejoice in each person’s individual identity as a child of God, surrounded by so many brothers and sisters to encourage us. On our baptismal days, we remember how God loves us as His adopted children. On our feast days—that is, the feast days of those saints who share our names or those whom we have otherwise claimed as our patrons—we remember the great “cloud of witnesses” we have in Heaven, the saints cheering us on to our ultimate goal of eternal life with God.
In our home, we celebrate baptismal days and feast days with bonus dessert nights. Typically, we only have dessert on one weeknight, so this is a big deal. The same way that we have cake or ice cream on birthdays, we mark these special occasions with something sweet. It’s a way for everyone to take notice and pay attention to when his or her day is!
My mother- and father-in-law have their own tradition of getting our kids a small gift on feast days. Sometimes it’s a book about a topic pertaining to the faith. Sometimes it’s a pack of fun stickers. One time, it was finger lightsabers.
Each time, the gift is packaged carefully and beautifully. My mother-in-law is very creative and has made my kids bookmarks with prayers or quotes from favorite saints. Once she included a couple of Chinese characters in her artwork, drawing from her upbringing overseas.
On baptismal days, my kids (and my husband and I, too) get a Mass card from his parents, telling us when a Mass will be offered for us at our parish.
This balance between something that teaches and something that’s just plain fun is how I want my children to approach their lives as Christians. There’s always more for us to learn, and there’s always something to celebrate. God created us, loves us, and wants us to rejoice in the gifts we’ve been given—most especially the gift of our lives.
In my experience, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate baptismal days and feast days. You might take out the candle from the person’s baptism and light it at the table during dinner.
When he was growing up, my husband’s family had the tradition of honoring the person being celebrated. After dinner, they would go around the table and say something kind, some way in which they saw that person living out his or her baptismal call to love and serve God. (All of this while eating dessert, of course.)
Ultimately, there is no one right way to celebrate these occasions, but there is a definite benefit to celebrating them somehow. A rich family culture, one that invites the family to gather together to eat and reconnect, can satisfy the natural longing we all have to be seen, known, and loved. When there is something to look forward to at home, it’s less likely that our children will look to satisfy those desires somewhere else.
Whether it’s a gift, bonus dessert night, affirming words, or a quick prayer after grace (“And God bless Henry!”), acknowledging and celebrating our status as children of God, brothers and sisters of the saints who have gone before us, is sure to draw our families closer together today and tomorrow.
Lindsay Schlegel is the author of Don't Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God. She and her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband live in New Jersey with their five children.