I disappointed a little girl right before Holy Week. She had been reading Catherine’s Pascha, and she wanted to know more about Catherine’s family. Specifically, she wanted to know the names of Catherine’s mommy and daddy.
So she got out her toy phone and called me to ask.
But I didn’t answer. I don’t know whether she understood why I didn’t, and I really do need to ask her forgiveness. But her mom messaged me with the question, in case there was an answer.
And there is. Back at the very beginning, when R.J. Hughes and I were still trying to decide what the book should look like, she had an idea that I just loved. She wanted to work icons or emblems of the characters’ patron saints into the illustrations in Catherine’s Pascha.
To do that, she had to know their patron saints. And to figure out who their patron saints would be, they all had to have names.
Of course, as you know by now, she didn’t end up doing that. Well, not for all the characters. If you look, you can find Catherine’s patron saint on the iconostasis in the scenes in the church. But that’s the only one that made it into the book.
The Answer to the Question
But, back to the question. If you have a little one who wants to know, Catherine’s parents are Mark and Cecilia. Although Cecilia usually goes by Celia.
And Mark just goes by Mark.
His patron could have been St. Mark of Ephesus, but if there’s an emblem associated with him, I don’t know what it would be. And I didn’t think anyone else would, either. The puzzle would be too difficult. Winged lions, on the other hand – they’re cool. They would have been fun to work into pictures. So Mark’s patron is the Evangelist. And that means that today is his name day.
Catherine’s family celebrates name days with small gifts and special desserts. On Catherine’s name day, it’s Lenten chocolate cake. Mark prefers more grown up sweets.
And he has a sweet custom that goes back to the days he and Celia were just getting to know each other. Mark read that, in Venice, St. Mark’s Day was also celebrated as the Festival of Roses. On that day, men give the woman they love a single rosebud. There’s an old story that purports to explain the custom, but Mark didn’t know the story. He just liked the idea of giving Celia a rosebud on his own name day.
So he did. And he’s been doing it every year ever since.
The Creation of Catherine’s Family: How R.J. Hughes found Catherine’s family, and what My Big Fat Greek Wedding has to do with it.
Why St. Demetrios?: In which illustrator R.J. Huges explains how St. Demetrios Orthodox Church of Winnipeg ended up in Catherine’s Pascha.
Why I wrote The Saint Nicholas Day Snow: I love Saint Nicholas, of course. And I wanted to get to know Elizabeth better.
Buy the Books!
These delightfully diverse books provide disability representation (Elizabeth, one of the main characters, is an ambulatory wheelchair user). They also give Orthodox Christian children the rare opportunity to see themselves in books, and children who are not Orthodox the chance to see cultural practices they may not be familiar with.
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.