Just when we think we aren’t going to make it through Lent we get a little break. Laetare Sunday (or “Rejoice Sunday”) falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent — the half-way mark. This year it falls on March 18.
It’s sometimes called “Let-Up Sunday” because we get to let up a little on the rigors of Lenten penitential practices. With Easter only a few weeks off now, we’re grateful for this “little Easter” right in the middle of our long Lenten walk.
The Golden Rose: Even priests are given the option to wear rose-colored vestments on Laetare Sunday, instead of the purple ones normally worn during Lent. The most likely explanation for the rose color: the tradition of the Golden Rose given to Catholic kings and queens. The Golden Rose would be blessed on this day and eventually rose colored vestments were introduced as part of the rose day theme.
Simnel Cakes: In England Laetare Sunday is called “Mothering Sunday” because people visit either their biological moms, their “Mother Churches” (where they were baptized and confirmed), or their local cathedrals (the Mother Church of the diocese). Some parishes have a tradition of children giving their mothers spring daffodils on Mothering Sunday and families share “simnel cakes” – a fruit cake with marzipan on top. As you can tell, our own “Mother’s Day” originates in the Lenten Mothering Sunday.
Now, as you may have noticed already, with Laetare Sunday falling on the 18th this year, it’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you might be tuckered out on the 18th. But just in case you in for a whole weekend of crafting, eating, and frolicking, here are a few ideas:
HONOR: Honor your own mom or another special mom-figure on this day. Bring her daffodils (the traditional Mothering Sunday flower) or roses and a simnel cake!
MAKE: Clay rose: here are instructions from WikiHow for making a simple clay rose. Instead of using colored clay, I’m planning to use non-colored air drying clay like the one Crayola makes then we’ll paint our roses gold!!
SHARE: Simnel cake: Below is a recipe for Simnel Cake. Wow, this cake looks gorgeous. I found a Simnel Cake recipe in A Continual Feast, but after my poor Barm Brack bread from that book flopped, I thought I’d try this one from fisheaters.com. Notice the 11 balls on top of the cake. They represent the 12 Apostles minus Judas:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/3 cups golden raisins
1 cup dried currants
2/3 cup candied cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
1/4 cup candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 pound almond paste
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 inch springform pan. Line the bottom and sides of pan with greased parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour. Stir in the golden raisins, currants, candied cherries, mixed fruit, lemon zest and mixed spice. Pour 1/2 of batter into prepared pan.
Divide almond paste into 3 equal portions. Roll out 1/3 of the almond paste to an 8 inch circle. Place the circle of almond paste on the cake batter in pan. Cover with remaining cake batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until evenly brown and firm to the touch. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil after an hour of baking. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Set oven to broil. When the cake has cooled, brush the top with warmed apricot jam. Roll out 1/3 of the almond paste into an 8 inch circle and place on top of cake.
Divide the remaining 1/3 of almond paste into 11 pieces and roll into balls. These represent the 12 Apostles minus Judas. Brush the almond paste on top of cake with beaten egg. Arrange the 11 balls around the outside edge on the top of cake. Brush the balls lightly with egg. Place cake under the broiler for 8 to 10 minutes, or until almond paste is golden brown.
Have a rejoiceful Laetare Sunday!