This past Saturday, we held a family gathering that has become a tradition after seven years; Carb Day!
Carb Day is the last Saturday before the Christmas weekend, and simply put is a celebration of bread. French Bread, Pizza, Pretzels, Pastas (including a special Timpano make each year by my niece). And of course cookies, cakes, crackers and dip, and a few meats added to the mix. But mostly bread…
My brother started the tradition by simply baking bread in large quantities one year, so that he could distribute to our family as the kids began expanding their Christmas holiday visits to include significant others and now spouses. And like the loaves themselves once the yeast was added, the tradition grew. More people participated in the making and baking, more equipment was added, including a commercial mixer and outdoor wood-fired baking oven.
Then the day started earlier, 3:00 AM to be specific. And to do that, the young adult baking team needed to spend Friday night in order to begin working to achieve the goal, which was always “more than last year”. So this year the team consisted of my Brother (always in his red chef’s jacket), the Bakers (black jacket) and Junior Bakers (1st time apprentices wearing white jackets), who proceed to put one hundred and thirty-five pounds of flour to use in the process of baking over two hundred loaves of bread, sixteen pizzas and several dozen pretzels. During the course of the day close to one hundred guests passed through my brother’s house, and all had their fill of lasagna, sausage and peppers, cheese and crackers, desserts, and oh yes, bread.
We spent most of the afternoon and evening enjoying the revelry, watching our children and their friends engage in simple pleasures of being together in the kitchen, and the amazing teamwork of mixing, kneading, rolling, cooking, and serving all of the guests. These are memories that will always be with us, and these kids have something they can carry forward in their lives.
But what really stands out to me was where this all came from. What was the source of my brother’s inspiration? What made sharing bread become such a memorable act and annual event of this magnitude.
Our first family encounter with Bread was when my dad purchased several French bread pans and began baking his own French bread at my parents’ homes Watchung and in the Poconos (Northeast Pennsylvania). Dad always loved to cook, creatively baking pies on our camping trips, cooking our Thanksgiving turkeys on a charcoal grill, and was a master at the Christmas beef tenderloin. And then there was the bread. It came to every family event for years. Dad always came with the foil wrapped torpedoes of deliciousness, or had them when we went to visit. There was nothing to compare with warm, buttered French bread to dip in the au jus of a Christmas beef dinner, or with café au lait on a cold morning, toasted with butter and Mom’s homemade peach preserves.
As much as Dad loved the process of baking, I think he ultimately enjoyed most the breaking of the bread at our meals. Seeing others enjoying the fruit of his labor. And this I think is the most important part of the ritual as it passed from father to son. Seeing the joy on my brother’s face as he watches the kids mixing, kneading, baking and eating on Carb Day is always a joy. It makes me happy to know that our children and their friends are participating in an activity that they will be able to share with their families, and that my Dad’s legacy will spread like pond ripples to future generations.
When we enjoy the season of Christmas, let us all remember the One who started the spiritual tradition of the breaking of the bread, the One who we await during this Advent season.
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all people.” (Acts 2:46-47 NKJV)
Let us do likewise and, with gladness and simplicity of heart, praise God for His Son and enjoy our gathering time this Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all.