Today, January 21 is the Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia. Long observed in the Dominican Republic, her feast is less well known here in the States. Still, the story is a beautiful one especially in the way that Our Lady inspires thankfulness and gratitude. We enjoy reading A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia by Julie Alvarez each year on this day. The illustrations are absolutely stunning!
In the story Maria’s family is worried because of the continued failure of their olive crops. Maria has a dream of a beautiful lady who inspires her to plant orange seeds while offering thanks. Maria’s family does just that planting many orange seeds and as a result enjoys a bountiful harvest of oranges. The harvest is so plentiful that the family struggles to gather them all. The imagery in this picture book is so lovely, with Our Lady sending a shower of stars in one of the dreams.
We have chosen to build our January Feast Table around Our Lady of Altagracia to build on the themes of gratitude and the lovely starry background. Recalling to the children that Our Lady is often described as having a crown of stars – 12 are mentioned in the book of Revelation – we set out to feature 12 stars.
We started with the most beautiful deep teal blue silk….it is long and flowing. It was a gift from my mom and dad to Sweet Pea for Christmas and I can’t tell you how often it is used in some imaginative way – at least daily! So, I was very grateful when Sweet Pea allowed us to use it as the backdrop. It makes the setting don’t you think?
The deep teal blue silk is affixed to the wall with double sticky tape (I use double sticky tape for everything – my poor husband won’t be happy to hear that…) and then I used an overlay of tulle that is studded with gold dots (more double sticky tape). It makes an absolutely stunning night time effect. We have had the gold studded tulle for many years and have often used it in our Advent displays. (It is wonderful to have a small stash of pretty fabrics that can be used as backdrops on nature tables and Feast tables, I think.)
The stars were borrowed from the craft bins. They’re just small wooden stars you can buy in bulk from the craft store. We were going to paint them, but I think the natural look of the wood is really lovely, don’t you? Sparkly and I arranged 12 stars like a crown (more double sticky tape…) on the tulle. The picture book is opened to one of our favorite pages and of course, I couldn’t resist adding the oranges below. We scattered a few more stars on the Feast Table. I’m so pleased with how it came out.
A few ideas to round out the Feast Day…
~ A focus on gratitude today. We’re going to offer as many thank-you’s as we can to each other and then we’ll offer our evening prayer intentions as thanksgiving. I think it’s so important to teach the children that we must be thankful in prayer as well as offering Adoration, supplications and contrition.
~ We have some beautiful transparent paper and we’re going to try to make some shimmery, transparent stars to hang in the learning room windows…inspired by Crafts Throughout the Year.
~ Orange smoothies! Yum!
~ The children are hoping to work on their own artwork using watercolors or oil pastels based on the beautiful, soft watercolor images in “A Gift of Gracias” – an image of Our Lady of Altagracia as she appeared to Maria in the story.
Enjoy the Feast Day everyone! May Our Lady inspire us all to be truly thankful for the many blessings God has given us!