It’s 1° F outside according to my thermometer and weather.com tells me that the wind chill is a frigid -13° F. So I guess I can understand why we got that dreaded phone call this morning just after 5 AM announcing that there would be no school today. At these temperatures our busses, stored outdoors, don’t like to start and it’s just too cold for even well-bundled kiddos to wait outside for them anyway.
Still, we’ve now missed seven days of school since winter break (the same number of days we’ve had school) and my boys are even starting to be genuinely disappointed when the phone rings in the morning.
Which leaves me with a big task of trying to find ways of entertaining them. But, at least for today, I think I have it covered because I found an obscure holiday for us to celebrate. It just so happens that today is National Pie Day.
First, it’s important to distinguish this from “Pi Day” which celebrates everyone’s favorite irrational number on March 14 (3/14 in the US). Though the holidays are celebrated similarly, the January 23rd holiday is sponsored by the American Pie Council (without whom there would be no one to tell us that pie is pretty tasty) as opposed to fun-loving math nerds (without whom there would be no one to, well, pretty much make our modern world function).
But this is more than just a day for the American Pie Council to promote its controversial agenda (that we should all eat more pie). Though the holiday as we know it today got started in 1986 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Crisco, the roots of National Pie Day actually reach much further than that.
It all started with a Bulgarian hermit named Ivan Rilski born in about 880 in what is today the city of Sophia. Saint Ivan made his home in the wilderness of the Rila Mountains where he became known as a healer who dodged fame whenever possible, even spurning a visit from Bulgaria’s Tsar Peter I.
But still disciples came and soon formed the Rila Monastery that today is the largest and most visited Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. There are many miracles associated with St. Ivan, most involving healing, but also quite a few involving feeding the hungry. For a time, St. Ivan is said to have sustained himself and visitors on beans provided by God in the wilderness, but when others attempted to remove beans from his presence they found that the beans had vanished.
And there’s another story involving a rare visit to a nearby village in which St. Ivan, himself the very picture of self-denial and reliance upon God, arrived at the homes of his hungry neighbors bearing two pies. The story earned the Saint the nickname “Two Pies Ivan,” but as I have been able to find it, it is maddeningly short on details.
Allegedly, Saint Ivan got the pies from the local pie maker and they were his last two. The event is referred to as a miracle, but it is admittedly unclear to me exactly why. Perhaps two pies would have been insufficient to feed the crowd of hungry villagers and there was a miraculous multiplication such as in the case of the loaves and fishes of the New Testament. Or perhaps Saint Ivan simply used a bit of Jedi mind trickery to solicit a pie donation for the local pie maker.
Really, I think, though, that if a strange old hermit who is known to barely subsistence-live in the mountains shows up on your doorstep with two pies, it might just seem like something of a miracle.
Whatever happened, it’s clear that St. Ivan showed up in the right place at the right time, bearing just the right gifts. His example of faith earned him the title of Patron Saint of Bulgaria and also Patron Saint of pies and pie makers.
And so nearly a month and a half before we bake a pie to celebrate pi day, we bake TWO pies to celebrate the legacy of Two Pies Ivan. The American Pie Council encourages trying new pie recipes on this day and also sharing pie with your neighbors. That sounds like a pretty good idea to me. My neighbors are probably having a rough day because I hear the wind chill is -13° and their kids are stuck at home. I imagine if a neighbor in a similar situation shows up at their door bearing pie, it might seem like something of a miracle.