WES Blog — All About Our Stone Soup Celebration

This Sunday, November 19, is our annual Stone Soup Celebration. The Stone Soup Celebration or Festival is one of Ethical Culture’s core celebrations – a fall celebration of the changing of the seasons observed at most Ethical Societies.

I experienced my first Stone Soup at the Chicago Society. Later, I enjoyed Northern Virginia’s Stone Salad Festival (This society and a few others have no kitchen areas, so they get creative with the story to make it work!). The last three years I’ve helped create the Washington Ethical Society’s version of Stone Soup.

WES’ take on the day starts with a few volunteer cooks gathering in the morning on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to start the vegan, gluten free soup. Jeff Mehal has been the lead cook for this celebration for several years; he kindly and lovingly starts the soup in his home the day before – slowly blending flavors of veggies so that our soup will have depth.

At 9:30, we have our first Stone Soup platform, which is always a new skit centered around the traditional story of Stone Soup. You never know what twist of the story you will find on Stone Soup Sunday. One year it was about the value of ugly vegetables. Another year it was the importance of our ancestral recipes. What will be the story this year? Come check it out! I’m not spilling the beans, but psst… it ties to this month’s theme, Abundance.

Around the story and message of the morning, the chorus weaves new and familiar music, and works in the giving of thanks for what we have. Music Director Bailey Whiteman scours the internet every year for new music to add to her vast seasonal and Stone Soup collection.

As this is an interactive and all ages Sunday, there are ways for our youth to take part too. Every year we ask all children to arrive on Sunday with a fist sized stone and an uncut, whole vegetable to add to the huge pot (and it is huge!). The variety of stones and vegetables, and the excitement in the children’s eyes add to the buzz of the morning.

Between the 9:30 and 11:30 platforms, the Giving Tree is featured. The tree is decorated with ornaments made by our SEEK children, and each ornament has a sticker on the back with information about the gift recipient and their gift request. This year WES is working with the Montgomery Co. Infant/Toddler Program(children with special needs) and A Wider Circle. If you wish to support a child/family in need, select an ornament. You can then add your name next to the gift request on the sign-up sheet. Return the gift to WES, with ornament attached, on Dec. 3 or Dec. 10 for delivery before the winter holidays.

At 11:30, we repeat the Platform and offer a secondary, card-making activity in the classrooms for families who attended the first platform. Also, children can help in the meal prep by arranging the bread, desserts, etc. near the kitchen on the lower level.

After second platform, the magical transformation takes place. Everyone helps to turn the Main Hall from theater seating arrangement into a dining hall. Tables get set up. Children and youth set the table with everything needed for our meal – including bread, butter, cheese and water/cider. All are then welcomed back in to find seats, the teens hand deliver soup to each section of the table, and then we feast – thanking our cooks and all other helpers for the meal.

After the meal (including an amazing array of desserts!), the real heroes step in – those who take the soup to the shelter, those who clean the Main Hall and kitchen, and of course, those who organize the Giving Tree gifts.

So much joy and laughter and sweetness is shared during our Stone Soup Celebration. And like the story of Stone Soup, it takes contributions from all of us to make that soup from a stone.

Do you need more information? Or do you want to help with the celebration and haven’t signed up yet? Please contact Melissa Sinclair, Director of Lifelong Learning at Melissas@ethicalsociety.org for more.


Melissa Sinclair