Pagans celebrate a variety of holidays as well as various lunar observances throughout the year and I think all of them incorporate food. For some of these special occasions, the meal is the main focus so it seems kind of redundant to have a separate ceremony. Especially when you have antsy, hungry kids if you decide to do it before dinner and everyone is feeling nappish after dinner and when are you going to have time to cook and clean up if you spend all your time ceremonializing?
Remember when there are kids involved the simpler the better, so if you're looking for a ritual you can do with the kids every Noumenia dinner or every Sabbat feast, this simple meal starter may be the way to go.
First make sure the dining area is sanctified ahead of time and all diners are clean and well-groomed. You are dining with the Gods after all. Set the table with the good silverware and dishes, napkins, etc. and place everything anyone will need throughout the meal within reach.
You will need:
Two candles, little votives will do. If you call the quarters, use 4 additional.
Plus one additional candle for each God/dess or ancestor invited
An image of the God/dess(es) of the occasion (optional)
For Samhain you may want to also have pictures of deceased loved ones and pets
A special offering plate and bowl or cup to receive liquid offerings
Matches or a candle lighter
A candle snuffer
These may be arranged as a centerpiece and decorated with flowers as you see fit. This should all be arranged on a tray so that it is mobile.
After everyone has gathered at the table, but before the meal has begun, the head of household or Priest(ess) stands before the altar/centerpiece. S/he may wish to ring a bell three times to begin and then and say:
"Welcome friends and loved ones to this feast in honor of [event, God/dess(es) and/or person]. (You may wish to enumerate on the event a bit as you like. But be brief, there are hungry people here.)
Let us all take a moment to reflect on what [this event] means to each of us individually and prepare ourselves to partake in this sacred feast, to ensure we are fully present at this sacred feast.
[Pause a moment here to let people reflect while you fiddle with the matches.]
Calling in the Quarters
(If you feel this is necessary you may do this, most Hellenic Pagans would not)
The head of household/master of ceremonies/priest(ess) may perform this part of the ritual or someone else may be designated to do so. Or s/he may carry the altar tray around the table to allow different diners to perform each part. Please review the calling in the quarters article for more thoughts on customizing this part for your personal needs.
We stand facing East and call upon the element of air. We breath deeply and allow the energy of air to awaken our minds that we may be alert, aware and fully present, that our conversation may flow freely, that all may listen and share with open minds and open hearts.
Head of household or caller lights the Easternmost candle on the centerpiece
We stand facing South and call upon the element of fire that our passions may be stirred and our energy aroused that we may each bring our creative spirit to this table; that we may be inspired to make new and joyous discoveries in each others' points of view.
Head of household or caller lights the Southernmost candle on the centerpiece
We stand facing West and call upon the element of water to bring honest emotion into our selves that those at this table be filled with compassion and empathy for each other as we share our true feelings and opinions.
Head of household or caller lights the Westernmost candle on the centerpiece
We stand facing North and call upon the element of Earth, to strengthen and empower our physical bodies as we share this food in the presence of the Gods that we may be filled with gratitude and a sense of community.
Head of household or caller lights the Northernmost candle on the centerpiece
Invite the Gods and Ancestors
Hestia, you who bind our home and hearts together, you I call upon first and last. We invite you to be present at our feast and to partake of the blessings which you have helped us to gather together here.
Light one of the center candles.
We call upon our ancestors to join with us at our table as we gather here as our mothers and fathers did to celebrate over this great feast which we are pleased and honored to share also with you.
Light another of the center candles.
Pour a little of whatever you are drinking into the offering cup or bowl as a libation.
[God/dess of the occasion], we call upon you and invite you to be present at our feast of [occasion] and we remember with gratitude all the blessings that you have bestowed upon us that have made it possible. In that spirit we are honored to share this meal with you.
Light the final candle as the second offering dish is passed around the table, filled with food offerings and then returned to the centerpiece.
At this time you may wish to say a prayer. You may say grace or read a hymn to the God/dess of the occasion.
Serve the food!
Pass the main course around the table.
(optional) Each diner offers it to the next saying "May you never hunger" and the receiving diner takes a bit of food and passes it to the next, family style.
Then the beverage is passed in a similar manner saying "May you never thirst".
After the meal.
As our feast draws to a close we thank our guests, those seen and unseen. Our family and friends, our ancestors, the shining Gods and spirits of this place. Now our meal is over and we bid you depart if you wish though you are always welcome at our hearth.
(If there are more festivities to follow, you can hold off on this bit till after.)
Snuff the God and ancestor candles.
Snuff the quarter candles (if you called quarters)
May the food that we have consumed this night/day give us strength to accomplish our true Will and purpose.
Snuff North candle.
May the feelings that we have shared strengthen the bonds between us.
Snuff the West candle.
May the passions we have shared enlighten our spirits and strengthen our souls.
Snuff the South candle.
May the conversation we have enjoyed at this table bring us new insight and spark new ideas.
Snuff the East candle.
Hestia we honor you first and last for you are the Hearth and the strength of our home and family. We thank you for your presence and your blessings.
Snuff the final candle.
We thank all who joined us here for this feast in honor of [occasion]. As our feast is now closed you are welcome to depart and take with you the blessings that we have shared and originated at this table. Remember as we depart that we remain together in our hearts.