Time is very important to Trads, who preserve the Old Calendar, fasting (or abstaining) on fast days and feasting on feast days. We are also capable of honouring two feasts falling on the same day, so on December 6, we celebrated both the Second Sunday of Advent and the Feast of Saint Nicholas, whom we (now being adults) revere not so much for the Santa Claus stuff but for slapping the heretical Arius (or an Arian bishop), apparently at the Council of Nicaea.
Personally I think the Synod on the Family would have been greatly improved if the bishops had slapped each other although perhaps they remembered that in the story of St Nicholas, St. Nick was thrown in jail for it. (Naturally I do not think anyone but a bishop has the right to slap another bishop unless she is his mother.)
Anyway, I was at two suppers honouring Saint Nicholas, and since I am trying to have a strict Advent between the big feast days, I feasted both times with great jollity. I was sitting at the head of the beautifully-laden table at the second, the lone woman at a table of Trads, when I remembered a mystery in my missal said "By the way, what are Ember Days?"
"What!" the men shouted. "You don't know what Ember Days are? You ask such a question when you write posts on traditionalism!?! Oh, shame!", etc, etc., itp.
This did not answer my question about Ember Days although it certainly made clear why men hate asking other men for directions.
Eventually they settled down long enough for the ex-Anglicans to explain they were for fasting and that Anglicans still observe them, which no doubt led to much reminiscing about the Good Old Days, to which I did not listen. Instead I later checked the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Old Calendar and the Missal and learned some interesting things.
First, Ember Days is an English-language corruption of "Quattuor Tempora", which means four seasons. They have nothing to do with embers.
Second, they are a way of marking the change of seasons with fasting and prayer. It was one of those steal-it-from-the-pagans-and-Christianize it deals. But it is also a way to thank God for good harvests and to pray for the next one and to think about using the gifts of the earth well--moderation for self, gifts to the needy.
Third, Pope Saint Gregory VII (1073-1085) "arranged and proscribed" the dates of the four Ember Weeks, but three of them date back at least to the 3rd century, but may be even older. St. Leo the Great thought they were apostolic. St Augustine of Canterbury brought them to England in the 6th century.
Fourth, they are not really a week but three days in the appointed week: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Fifth, according to the Old Calendar (not the Catholic Encyclopedia) they fall after St. Lucy's Day (Dec 13), after the First Sunday in Lent, after Whitsunday (Pentecost), and (this year, anyway) after St.Matthew's Day (September 21).
Looking at my Papa Stronsay Calendar (whose advert is below because it is cool), I see that this December's Ember Days are marked in as Ember Wednesday (Dec. 16), Ember Friday (Dec. 18) and Ember Saturday (Dec.19).
Meanwhile, my missal shows that the readings for St. Lucy's Ember Week are very Adventish. The "Secret" Prayer for Ember Wednesday mentions fasting; on Ember Friday. it mentions "our prayers and offerings." Mass on Ember Saturday has a gazillion readings, graduals, a canticle and a tract as well as the Gospel. I shall have to figure out a way of asking my FSSP priest if he includes all these readings and prayers in his Ember Saturday Mass without giving him the false hope that I might be there. I will be in Italy that day, finding out if the nearby traditional Benedictine monks include them.
So that solves the mystery of what "Ember Days" are, and as they are fasting days, I imagine there is no complicated traddy thing to bake. Or fun things to drink. I see that "Ember Days" are called "Suche Dnie" (Dry Days) in Polish.