By Mary Bridges, chaplain
Why is it that when we are getting ready to flip our calendars over to a new year, we become nostalgic? For many years, I was very active in women’s ministries in our church and served as a board member on a district level. Members of our board would meet each January in Independence, Mo., at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist Retreat Center.
This was a lovely, peaceful setting. The sisters were known for their large gardens where the flowers and vegetables they grew were sold and surplus vegetables were canned for use throughout the coming year. I remember one year in particular, when they apparently had an abundant crop of cabbage. Cabbage was served in every form possible at every meal. From that time on, we lovingly called them the “Sisters of the Cabbage Soup.”
Cabbage is a leafy vegetable from the wide family of "brassicas." It is grown annually, and we eat its dense green or purple leaves in many different dishes. A head of cabbage, which can grow from 0.5 to 4 kilograms, is rich in vitamins and minerals, has almost no fat and is very rich in fiber, which makes it very healthy to eat.
Our family ate lots of cabbage. Mom put it in soups and in pot roasts. She made beirocks and coleslaw. I remember the fun of sauerkraut making day each fall. My dad would come home with gunny sacks filled with cabbage. Our special cabbage cutter was taken off the shelf and our basement became a sauerkraut factory. The cabbage was cut and packed in stoneware crocks. Then mom placed a plate upside down on the top and put a gallon jar of water on top, covered it with a dish towel and it began the six to eight week fermentation process.
In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31 and continue throughout the next day. There are a number of New Year’s traditions revolving around food thought to bring good luck, good fortune, and/or wealth in the coming year.
Many, like my family, enjoy the German tradition to eat cabbage. The long shreds of cabbage are thought to symbolize a long life.
Luck is something we humans have no influence over, but the solace we take in cultural and culinary identity is. These rituals of eating special foods remind us who we are, where we've been, and the ways we hope to thrive. My prayer for each of you for 2019 is this benediction written by Darcy Roake, a Unitarian Universalist Minister:
There is too much hardship in this world to not find joy, every day.
There is too much injustice in this world to not right the balance, every day.
There is too much pain in this world to not heal, every day.
Each of us ministers to a weary world. Let us go forth now and do that which calls us to make this world more loving, more compassionate and more filled with the grace of divine presence, every day.