Good Friday is eagerly awaited by my children, as the day of "that really fun dinner!"
Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it's a good thing!
Me -- I was tired, headachy and Lent-weary. That last big push with a day of fast (and, in our house, water-only to drink) is a tough one for me. Plus, the poor Chief is having back trouble again. He's not quite flat on his back this time, but he's in a lot of pain. Happily, after two surgeries whose results have been temporary at best, we found a new doctor who is known for his conservative, surgery-as-a-last-resort-only approach.
He recommends surgery.
As soon as possible.
Since that won't be until next Thursday, the Chief is in fairly rough shape these days. And our plans for attending the Easter Vigil together are now up in the air -- we'll have to see how the day goes. (Prayers are, of course, dearly welcomed.)
But I digress. Dinner was actually wonderful.
We used paper plates and cups -- partly because, being somewhat under the weather I dreaded the clean-up; but it actually added to the "austere" nature of the day and the dinner.
I liked it!
The children were very excited to help prepare each of the little dishes -- snapping the green beans, putting rice krispie "thorns" on peanut butter Ritz crackers, rolling up the mini biscuits, that sort of thing. Everything was timed well, and all the dishes were laid out on the counter, ready to be brought over at the appropriate Scriptural cue.
The Chief read each passage from the Bible between each course. Junie B. enthusiastically volunteered to play the role of Hostess with the Mostest, eagerly bringing over each dish and clearing it away with finesse. She even noted when the plates were a little "used" looking, and cleared them away, replacing them with fresh paper plates. She also handled the inevitable spills from the tippy plastic water cups, and kept everyone's cup filled! I was actually pretty impressed.
The first time we decided to have this special Tea as our Good Friday meal back in 2007, we made a few changes which, at the time, were mainly just "making do" with what we had on hand at the time. These changes have mostly solidified into a tradition in our home, and we do it as close to the same way as possible, each time.
Here's our menu:
The King's Crown: Mark 15:1-5. Key verse: "Pilate interrogated him: 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'You are the one who is saying it,' Jesus replied." Mk 15:2, NAB
In our home, this is represented by a small shrimp cocktail, surrounded by homemade tortilla chips. So important has this become to our special meal that anytime we have a dinner celebration connected to the Liturgical Year, Junie B. & Taz insist that this same crown be included! (Works for me!)
Out of Envy: Mark 15:6-15. Key verse: "He was aware, of course, that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over." Mk 15:10, NAB
Green being the color of envy, we use a few fresh green beans, steamed and served with a little bit of ranch dressing for a dip. (below, right)
Purple Cloak: Mark 15:16-17a. Key verse: "They dressed him in royal purple[.]" Mk 15:17a, NAB
The bowl of water, which is actually spiked with a little vingar for our purposes, recalls Pilate's washing his hands of responsibility for Jesus' death. The red and blue food coloring are given to the children to squirt into the bowl, making the water a deep, royal purple. At this time, we also place hard-boiled eggs in the colored water; see Golgotha, below.
Crown of Thorns: Mark 15:17b-20. Key verse: "...then wove a crown of thorns and put it on him[.]" Mk 15:17b, NAB
A Ritz cracker, spread around the edges with peanut butter, then dipped in rice krispies, does the trick (see photo below "Out of Envy," lower left).
Golgotha: Mark 15:21-23. Key verse: "[T]hey brought Jesus to the site of Golgotha (which means, 'Skull Place')[.]" Mk 15:22a, NAB
Alice's idea was to draw a skull & crossbones on hard-boiled eggs, which is also a hit at our house. We go a step farther, drawing the image in white crayon or hot glue. The eggs are placed in the purple water & vinegar solution, and soaked from that time until now; when they are pulled from the dye bath, they (if all goes well!) look something like this:
Seamless Garment: Mark 15:24-27. Key verse (taken from the gospel of John, where the fact the garment is seamless is mentioned): Jn 19:23-24, "After the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and divided them four ways, one for each soldier. There was also his tunic, but this tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom and had no seam. They said to each other, 'We should not tear it. Let us throw dice to see who gets it.'" Jn 19:23-24, NAB
We used a gingerbread girl cutter to make cloak shapes out of plain flour tortillas (the same ones used to make the chips from the first reading.) These were served with cheddar cheese cube "dice." (below, right)
Two Robbers: Mark 15:27-32. Key verse: "With him they crucified two insurgents, one at his right and one at his left." Mk 15:27, NAB
As Alice notes in her rendition of this tea, basil is traditionally associated with the crucifixion: According to legend, basil grew up at the foot of the cross. This is the one dish we've not really done exactly the same way each time. The first two years, we sprinkled dried basil over a dish of vinegar, then, after the next reading, dipped a piece of bread into the mixture and tasted it. Last time, for the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we had a beautiful loaf of Onion-Basil Foccacia, and a glaze made of honey & balsamic vinegar (but that was a feast, not a day of fast!) This time, I halved small-sized refrigerator biscuits, flattened them out, and rolled up a single leaf of fresh basil into each of five of them. Then they were pinched closed, shaped smartly into little balls, and baked; these were served alongside a small dish of plain white vinegar, and dipped into it before eating. Even dipped in the vinegar, they were pretty tasty. Using balsamic vinegar could actually make them into quite a treat! (above, left)
Vinegar to Drink: Mark 15:33-37. Key verse: "Someone ran off, and soaking a sponge in sour wine, stuck it on a reed to try to make him drink. The man said, 'Now let's see whether Elijah comes to take him down.'" Mk 15:36, NAB
See above. As we tasted the vinegar, the children were asked to think about what it might be like to be in so much pain as Jesus was, and thirsty besides -- and then be offered only vinegar to drink.
The Roman Centurion: Mark 15:38-39. Key verse: "The Centurion who stood guard over him, on seeing the manner of his death, declared, 'Clearly this man was the Son of God!'" Mk 15:39, NAB
Black seedless grapes are a rare treat in our home, especially this time of year, so the children eagerly look forward to this part of the meal! Since there are usually 5 of us participating in this dinner, everyone counts out 20 grapes; then we count by 20s to reach a full 100 (you'd be surprised how many grapes there are in a pound, even when they are large grapes like these!) Of course, we do this to make the connection of the number 100 to the Centurion, who would have been responsible for 100 soldiers. Twenty plump black grapes is actually a lot to eat, especially at this point in the meal; but just in case, we remind everyone to save at least one grape for the next Scripture reading.
Laid in the Tomb: Mark 15:40-47. Key verse: "Then, having brought a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a tomb which had been cut out of rock. Finally, he rolled a stone across the entrance of the tomb." Mk 15:46, NAB
The remaining biscuit dough rounds, from the Two Robbers section above, had all been halved, rolled into balls, and placed in lightly-sprayed mini muffin tins. They only take about 7-9 minutes to bake, at 375 degrees. Everyone pulls the top of the biscuit off and presses a grape into it (you can hollow it out first, as well), then replaces the top; this represents Jesus being laid in the tomb. And it's a surprisingly tasty combination, too!
At this point, everyone is usually pretty full, but just in case, the extra biscuits, grapes and maybe some peanut butter or cheese cubes are available to complete the meal as needed. With the paper plates & cups, cleanup is a snap, and the meal is done!
As I have noted before, this is my children's favorite, most talked-about meal, all year, and they greatly look forward to it. It is a lovely and memorable way to commemorate Jesus' passion, and set a solemn tone appropriate to the day; yet it is enjoyable and "special" enough to carry everyone through to the Easter Vigil (after all, we know how this story ends!) :)
If you haven't given Alice's Liturgical Teas a try, I'd encourage you to head over to her site and peek at the many teas she's developed to go along with the Liturgical Year. It's a wonderful and simple way to enhance your family's experience of important events and feast days all year long! Who knows -- maybe you'll even be inspired to create one of your own.