Official feasts used to be an important part of the human community. People would gather together to remember something sacred, express their faith and hope for the future, and / or just be together formally, recognizing each other as being part of a shared community. Few things express a desire for shared companionship and social intimacy more than dining together. Sadly, the gathering together for feasting is increasingly a relic of the past – at least here in the West.
It need not be so! Today we will remember the ancient feasts.
THE FEAST OF ST. Hedwig
This feast is a Christian religious celebration of St. Hedwig of Silesia.
Who is St. Hedwig?
Hedwig of Silesia (Polish: Święta Jadwiga Śląska), also Hedwig of Andechs (German: Heilige Hedwig von Andechs, Latin: Hedvigis; 1174 – 15 October 1243), a member of the Bavarian comital House of Andechs, was Duchess of Silesia from 1201 and of Greater Poland from 1231 as well as High Duchess consort of Poland from 1232 until 1238. She was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1267 by Pope Clement IV.
Hedwig was canonized in 1267 by Pope Clement IV, a supporter of the Cistercian order, at the suggestion of her grandson Prince-Archbishop Władysław of Salzburg. She is the patron saint of Silesia, of Andechs, and of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Wrocław and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Görlitz. Her feast day is celebrated on the General Roman Calendar on 16 October. The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, who count her as a great benefactor, celebrate it on 8 June. A 17th-century legend has it that Hedwig, while on a pilgrimage to Rome, stopped at Bad Zell in Austria, where she had healing waters spring up at a source which today still bears her name.
In 1773 the Prussian king Frederick the Great, having conquered and annexed the bulk of Silesia in the First Silesian War, had St. Hedwig in Berlin built for the Catholic Upper Silesian immigrants, since 1930 the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Berlin. After the expulsion of almost all Germans from Silesia, German Silesians carried Hedwig’s worship to all over remaining Germany.
In March 2020 the discovery of Hedwig’s remains, that had been missing for centuries, was reported. The remains were found in her sanctuary in Trzebnica, in a silver casket bearing a lead tablet with an inscription confirming Hedwig’s identity.
Hedwig glasses are named after Hedwig of Silesia.
What do you eat for The Feast of St. Hedwig?
In my search for the traditional feast day food for St. Hedwig, I came across the following:
Hedwigsohlen (the Soles of St. Hedwig)
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1 lemon
- 2 cups flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 egg yolk
- Mix half of the milk with a teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. Let stand until frothy. Grate the peel of half of the lemon. Mix this and all the other dough ingredients with the yeast mixture to make a smooth dough. It may be necessary to add extra flour or liquid so the dough is pliable.
- Let dough rest for 45 minutes. Cut the dough into 10 small balls and pieces and form each into the shape of the sole of a shoe. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Put the “soles” onto a greased baking sheet, let rise and rest for about 20 minutes.
- Bake the bread in preheated oven at 400 ° F (200 ° C) for 20 minutes until golden brown. Five minutes before the end of baking time, brush the top of each “sole” with the mixture of sour cream and egg yolk. Sprinkle with sugar and return to oven for last 5 minutes.
- This recipe is from Cooking with the Saints by Ernest Schuegraf. Any bread dough recipe could be used and shaped into the sole shape. In fact, you could use pre-prepared dough or even biscuit or cookie dough as those can easily be cut in the desired shape – and retain the shape well. Lots of possibilities for “sole” food in memory of St. Hedwig.
Why make “The Soles of St. Hedwig?” She was famous for walking. From catholiccuisine:
St Hedwig, known as St. Jadwiga in Poland, was a 13th century duchess of Silesia and is a historic patroness of Poland. Her feast day is October 16. On this feast day, in that region, there is a bread called Hedwigsohlen (Shoe Soles of St. Hedwig) that was historically distributed to the poor of Trebnitz, the location of the Cistercian abbey which her husband founded and she later entered. The biography at Catholic Culture website states St. Hedwig led a life of piety and solicitude for the sick and poor, including their religious education. She lived a life of poverty and humility, despite her prominent position. Every day, even in winter, she would walk barefooted, so her feet were in bad shape. A story tells us her husband sent her a pair of shoes, insisting that she not be without them — so she kept them under her arm. The shoe soles, depicted in the bread shape, remind us of her generosity to the poor, and the fact that she sacrificed her own comfortable shoes when walking.
The feast also can include a prayer (such as the one below):
O Powerful God, help me to follow the blessed example of St. Hedwig and set aside worldly concerns for eternal riches. Grant me the wisdom to value heavenly treasure over money and earthly possessions. Show me that my faith can overcome any financial hardship with Your guidance. Amen!
When is this feast celebrated?
St. Hedwig’s Feast Day is celebrated on October 16. If you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day.