As each year of fugal living ticks away, it becomes more important to make your home magical. Now I’m not talking about tricks like pulling a live rabbit out of a hat, but about creating an illusion or, in this case, a reality.
Regarding magic, when my third son, an inventor, first started dating, he worked hard to make a table that would pop out of the sand combined with chilled champagne attached to a nearby floating log. That kind of over-the-top magic was usually too much for his dates. But the magic I’m referring to is the same wonderful magic we experience at Mass—the use of our five senses to enhance our spiritual worship. Magic in the home, likewise, employs our five faculties; and what I’ve discovered is that with a bit of effort on my part, we can live a very frugal lifestyle without sacrificing at all because of the illusion of magic.
WHAT IS MAGIC?
Magic is those rituals you perform for yourself and others. It’s the music you flick on, the healthy household plants you feed, the colored or white candles you light, the earthy smell of the incense you ignite, or the questions you ask your family and guests. It's what we do in our domiciles to impart warmth, light, and enchantment. Magic draws folks in and makes them feel special-- something all of us want. It’s that love nest we tender for those we cherish.
WHY IS MAKING HOME MAGIC SO IMPORTANT?
When we take the time to conjure up an atmosphere in our home, we create the same feelings we get when we go to a fine restaurant. Memory-making brings the family back, time and time again, just like the Mass pulls us into the liturgy. If we look to the scriptures, we can even see how the risen Christ drew his anxious disciples back after his resurrection when Jesus made the charcoal fire on the beach and roasted fish to give them. John 21:8-10
"But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.'”
Christ took the extra time to show His disciples His love.
IS FRUGALITY ENHANCED BY MAGIC?
If you want to live a frugal lifestyle and save, magic is your ticket. That’s because it makes the home a far better place to be than a restaurant. And I don’t need to go into how much money you’ll save by staying in versus going out. Making your home enchanting helps you stay put creatively.
SO HOW DO YOU DO IT?
SIGHT— For sight, candles are a good starting point, as demonstrated by how well they are used in Mass. We have the candles on the alter and the red candle by the Tabernacle. And as we find candles to provide comfort at Mass, the use of candles for your evening meal likewise brings peace and holds people longer at the table, which means more meaningful conversation. Any fine dining establishment knows that! I use inexpensive dollar candles on my table and freeze them beforehand to keep them from dripping. I’ve also begun to prefer soy candles scattered around the house, even though they are more expensive. The soy wax doesn’t emit a harsh odor as paraffin does, so that switch seems like money well spent.
Now for sight, you don’t need to employ illusion, just simplicity, like simple lighting. Great magical lighting sources are a string or two of white Christmas lights or small night-light table lamps. I use the stringed lights on the tops of cabinets (they stay plugged in all the time) because they especially give off a warm glow on cold nights.
You can also wind these white lights into a plant, or you can position sticks of lights into tall plants. A dimmer over your table works well, too, if you aren’t into candles because lowering the lights creates intimacy and conversation. And finally, don’t overlook the use of small table lamps, the kind that uses a night light bulb. I have found all of my table lamps at Goodwill Stores or consignment shops.
My friend Dixie Moore even creates magic in our wet Pacific North West winters by turning off all overhead lights and using only table and desk lamps instead. She states, “We rarely use overhead lights but seem to hunker in with a good book and nice music.”
SOUND—Who doesn’t appreciate music well done within The Sacrifice of the Mass? Good music nourishes the soul, so the music you enjoy in the home helps us relax and focus. Even before I understood the value of classical music's positive effects on the brain, I regularly had it in the background during home school. I found it soothed me and helped our five children concentrate better. And don’t overlook the value of a noise machine with various sounds such as rain, waves, or even spring frogs. These bring much peace of mind and easiness.
Another thought on sound is the sound of the questions your family asks at mealtimes. One of the most delightful conversation starters I've purchased are clear plastic boxes full of questions where you can more fully learn about your family or your guests. Look up TABLE TOPICS from Amazon ($25), or eBay (about $15), or check your local consignment store where I found two boxes of TABLE TOPICS for $5 each.
TOUCH—We employ touch within the Mass with The Sign of Peace. Other tactile items are the hymnal's feel in our palms, kneeling, standing, and the Host on our tongues. Likewise, in our home, much magic can be created with soft, comfortable pillows behind our backs or throws over our legs, cloth napkins at dinner, or bamboo or flannel sheets. Touch magic isn’t prickly, but the soft surroundings we foster.
TASTE—Of course, our taste in Mass is the precious body and blood of Our Lord—a taste that brings spiritual and physical nourishment. So too must our food provide for our body and soul because you can’t minister to others if you are starving physically or spiritually.
Don’t have enough money for expensive foods? Then serve soups and casseroles or check out the recipe ideas from The USDA Cost of Food at Home Recipes https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-education/recipes.
SMELL—Ever notice how some Masses smell better than others? Then don’t overlook the power of smell to produce magic. Employ incense if you like it, add some fresh flowers into the home, a green plant to clean the air, an herbal oil heater, or an essential oil diffuser. And as I stated before, soy candles smell much better when burning than paraffin ones, so do consider them too.
Magic is all around us in God’s beautiful creation, and likewise, it is in The Sacrifice of the Mass where heaven and earth meet, a foretaste of the beauty and glory to come as described in Revelations. Let God weave His beautiful, magical fabric of love into your home. You’ll be glad you did.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.