A Homemade Year
Jerusalem Jackson Greer
Paraclete Press, 2013
My spiritual life has been deeply affected by the Anglican practice of arranging church life around the various liturgical seasons of the year. Liturgy began to feed my soul in college and has only become more important to me in the (more than) decade since graduation. Now as a mother, I aim for my family’s home life to reflect what goes on at church. I want my children to always sense that church feels like home and home feels like an extension of church. It’s something that hasn’t magically come together all at once, but bit by bit and year by year I try to make steady progress toward that general goal.
You’ll understand, then, that when I caught wind of a new book on celebrating the church year with your family I was immediately interested. A Homemade Year is a book that will appeal to both newbies and veterans to liturgical celebrations, so wherever you find yourself on that spectrum I happily commend it to you. I loved that the book doesn’t contain long, intimidating lists of all of the ways you could be marking each special day or season. (She says candidly in the preface, actually, that she doesn’t recommend doing every craft, recipe, and activity in the book unless you only require three hours of sleep per night.) Unlike some of the other church year celebration guides that I own, this book is a peek into one woman’s family life and the simple, creative, personal ways that she has made the church year come alive in their home. It’s less like Pinterest and more like a memoir of sorts, and for someone who can get intimidated by the sheer number of ideas out there, I appreciated that. It’s a welcome reminder that celebrating the church calendar doesn’t mean we have to put every single great idea into place. Just one or two recipes or activities is really all you need, and you alone get to choose which ones (from this book or from other sources) are going to mean the most to your family. Hooray!
Aside from the well known staples of the church year (Christmas, Easter, etc), author Jerusalem Jackson Greer writes about a number of celebrations that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with. Anyone out there regularly do something for St. Joseph’s Day? Or Holy Cross Day? Do you even know when they are? I certainly didn’t. But because of A Homemade Year I do have several new days that I’m adding to our family’s celebrations this coming year. Here’s the passage that sold me on observing Candlemas, the day to remember when the infant Jesus was presented in the temple:
By the time February 2 rolls around, there is very little evidence of Christmas left at my house… Winter is still here, bleak and bare, long outlasting the holiday finery that it arrived in… Candlemas comes to me then, in those moments of wondering and cold toes. It comes full of light and warmth, it comes with beeswax candles and cups of steaming hot cocoa, signaling like those blinking lights on the snow plows and school buses, reminding me that Christmas was not a dream. Christ did come, and he is among us still.
Yes, yes, and yes. Sign me up for Candlemas!
I have long loved the church year from Advent to Christ the King. I love the rhythm it brings to my spiritual life, I love the aesthetics it offers to my home, I love systematically reliving the life of Jesus every year. But even if you’re not similarly devoted to keeping the liturgical calendar alive in your home, I’m going to venture a guess that you’d still appreciate A Homemade Year. Jerusalem neither grew up in a liturgical church nor worships in one now, and her meditations about each mentioned day/season are down to earth stories from her own life experience. To me, that’s what makes this book so perfectly unique from the other Christian year celebration books I own. Sure, there is less talk about theological underpinnings or historic traditions. But when I read it I’m inspired to pay attention not just to liturgy but also to the unique story being woven together in my own home. It makes me want to think on a more personal level about the ways my family can meaningfully engage in the passing of the Christian days and seasons together – and ultimately, that’s why it’s found a permanent spot on my bookshelf.
[Paraclete was kind enough to send me a review copy of A Homemade Life at my request. I'm sorry that, because of our long blogging break, it's taken me this long to share my thoughts with you all!]