Archive for the ‘traditions’ Tag

12-12-2015 Journal–Christmas Weirdness!   1 comment

thJ3XY5CND

It’s easy to get on a lengthy sentimental journey of sorts during the Christmas season but with this posting I hope to avoid that.  Christmas and all of it’s incarnations worldwide are interesting and strange to say the least. Here are a host of weird and strange Christmas factoids you may not be aware of but are true nonetheless.

  • Japanese people traditionally eat at KFC for Christmas dinner, thanks to a successful marketing campaign 40 years ago. KFC is so popular that customers must place their Christmas orders 2 months in advance.
  • Paul McCartney earns $400,000 a year off his Christmas song, which is widely regarded as the worst song he ever recorded. 
  • Mistletoe kissing originated with fertility rites. The hanging sprig is a very ancient symbol of virility and therefore anybody standing beneath it is signaling that he or she is sexually available.
  • About half of Sweden’s population watches Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve since 1960 .
  • Mormon missionaries can only call home twice a year: once on Mother’s Day and again on Christmas.

thN3DA8D06

Don’t you feel bad for poor old Paul McCartney. He reaped only $400,000.00 a year for a crappy song. Keep the lucky bastard in your Christmas prayers.  And KFC for Christmas in Japan? That’s as weird as it gets.

  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is the only record to get the UK Christmas Singles Chart Number One twice, once in 1975 and again in 1991.
  • Engineers designing the Voyager Space mission planned it to avoid planetary encounters over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • The US playing card company ‘Bicycle’ had manufactured a playing card in WW2. That, when the card was soaked, it would reveal an escape route for POWs. These cards were Christmas presents for all POWs in Germany. The Nazis were none the wiser.
  • The people of Oslo, Norway donate the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree every year in gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during WWII.
  • The Christmas Tree is a manufactured tradition. Victorian intellectuals  invented the tradition as part of a social movement to consciously reform Christmas away from its tradition of raucous drinking.

Hooray for Freddy Mercury and Queen. Their Christmas song just has to be better than McCartney’s.  The Victorians did us no favors so bring back  all that raucous drinking, please.

  • Christmas as a "day off" is a recent innovation. As late as 1850, December 25 was not a legal holiday in New England.
  • The Beatles hold the record for most Xmas number 1 singles, topping the charts in 1963, 65 and 67.
  • The highest-grossing holiday movie is 2000’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which has raked in $175m so far.
  • Hanging stockings comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.
  • There is no reference to angels singing anywhere in the Bible.

thQ3OYYVJ6

No angels singing in the Bible. Isn’t that just a giant kick in the ass? Personally I don’t think there was much singing at all in the Bible. People were too busy begatting and killing to have time for singing.

  • Jesus was probably born in a cave and not a wooden stable, say Biblical scholars.
  • In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world’s biggest ever snowman. He stood at 113ft tall.
  • The holly in a wreath symbolizes Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries are drops of his blood.
  • Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965.
  • Astronomers believe the Star Of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to Jesus, may have been a comet or the planet Uranus.

I’m glad to see the state of Maine making the list. Although how proud can you be about a giant snowman. Snow is about all we have to offer except for a few billion pine trees.

  • Santa Claus has different names around the world – Kriss Kringle in Germany, Le Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France and Deushka Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in Russia.
  • In Britain, the best-selling holiday song is Band Aid’s 1984 track, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which sold 3.5 million copies. Wham! is next in the same year with Last Christmas, selling 1.4 million.
  • US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.
  • Despite the tale of three wise men paying homage to baby Jesus, the Bible never gives a number. Matthew’s Gospel refers to merely "wise men".
  • There are 13 Santa’s in Iceland, each leaving a gift for children. They come down from the mountain one by one, starting on December 12 and have names like Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.

th1LXSJE02

Another misquote from the Bible. Are you shocked? Not me.  And thanks to all of those scientists for taking the time out of their busy work day to compute those figures.  Get a life guys.

TWELVE SHOPPING DAYS LEFT

12-15-2013 Christmas Food Traditions   Leave a comment

I’m what you might consider a “foodie”.  I love to cook and above all I love to eat.  It might explain why I’m in the middle of a six month weight loss program.  As a kid I always looked forward to the holiday season primarily due to my grandmothers Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners.  Every country and ethnic group has their own list of traditions for the holidays and compared to the United States they can be  just a bit strange and a few are a little disgusting.  Some are fun but they all accomplish the same basic things as ours.  Time with family, friends, and memories of past holidays and family members.

Here are a few I discovered while surfing which are very interesting.  I can guarantee one thing after reading them, I’ll never be attending Christmas dinners anywhere in Scandinavia.  I love  seafood but OMFG.

Japan

In Japan it’s customary to go out and eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner from a nearby KFC of course. Thousands of people flock to KFC’s to enjoy some finger licking chicken and the Christmas rush has become so huge that some branches take table bookings.

Peru

In Peru, the big day is Noche Buena or “Good Night”, on December 24. On this night, after mass, everybody goes home to open gifts and feast on an elaborately prepared Christmas meal of traditional roasted turkey. At midnight, the adults toast with champagne and children raise their glasses of hot chocolate as fireworks shine in the night sky.

Bulgaria

In Bulgaria they cook 12 dishes to represent the 12 months of the year but they eat no meat. A typical feast consists of nuts, dried plums, cakes and banitza (a pastry). Walnuts are a necessary component of the meal as each family member cracks one in order to determine their fate for the next year.

France

Traditionally the French dine on a starter of fresh oysters served with rye bread and butter and lemon juice or shallot vinegar. Some households may also eat smoked salmon or escargots (snails). This dish is then followed by a second starter of Coquilles St Jacques (Scallops with mushrooms and white wine).

Italy

After the meatless day before Christmas, Italians often enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner that includes other meats. From lamb to roast beef, turkey or pork, Italians often include foods other than fish on their tables on Christmas day. Salads and antipasto are often the first course. Broccoli, eggplant, peppers and other vegetables are featured in side dishes. Pasta’s, a staple of Italian cooking, are also included on the big day, in baked dishes or as homemade vermicelli. Crostini, a dry toasted bread, is often included in the meal.  Fruits and nuts may also make an appearance as well as desserts and sweets. Try your hand at making belfanini an anise flavored cookie.

Puerto Rico

Popular dishes include roast pig, rice and pea dishes, coquito or eggnog made with rum and coconut milk, coconut custard, fried plantains, and nuts. Many families also celebrate with unique dishes only made during the holiday season.

Sweden

Swedish Julafton (Christmas Eve dinner) typically consists of a smorgasbord with julskinka (a type of Christmas ham), lutefisk (pickled pigs feet), dried codfish, sliced gravlax (raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill), pickled herring and an assortment of sweets.

Norway

They enjoy pinnekjøtt which is salted lamb ribs for the main course. To compliment the meat they tend to eat mashed rutabaga (also known as swede) which is kind of like our turnips.  Another favorite meat at Christmas is the lambs head to go along with the lamb ribs. This is boiled and salted (minus the brains) and the head is eaten from front to back with the tongue and eye muscles being particularly yummy cuts.

Czech Republic

Christmas is a very religious and peaceful time in the Czech Republic and everyone fasts for one day in the run up to the Christmas meal. They then start with a fish soup which is followed by the tradition of carp. This is often accompanied by a potato salad including onions, cooked carrots, pickled gherkins, cooked eggs and mayonnaise. This is prepared on Christmas Eve and allowed to ‘mellow’ for a day before eating. YUM?????

* * *

You see what I mean about Scandinavia.  Truly some acquired tastes there.  I hope you’re finished with your shopping and are preparing to relax and enjoy the holiday.  I know, I know, who am I kidding.  You’re probable a bunch of Christmas Eve shoppers who get off on the big crowds and incidental body contact.  Another unusual Christmas tradition that started in NYC on the subways. LOL

10-12-2013   Leave a comment

For most of my life I’ve had older people telling me things that I had a hard time believing.  Growing up in western Pennsylvania put me in contact with many people with their genealogical roots in eastern Europe.  I wasn’t more than seven or eight when a elderly neighbor lady who spoke broken English told me to wear cloves of garlic around my neck to ward off evil spirits.  It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered she was an immigrant from Romania where they have a history of evil beings and Vlad the Impaler

Old wives tales are present in every society it seems and have been passed down through the generations as being the gospel truth.  When I lived in Korea I found out the best way to insure a safe pregnancy was to hang a strand of charcoal pieces over the doorway to your home.  I thought it was nonsense but after a group of elderly Korean ladies threatened me with bodily harm, I just smiled and got out of their way.  They put the charcoal in place and there was once again peace in the valley.

Here’s an interesting collection of “Old Wives Tales” for you women out there.  I can’t verify that they’re true or that they actually work but I can guarantee that somewhere out there are a few Old Wives who believe it.

  • If you happen to step on a man’s toes, whether dancing or in a crowd, it is the man you’ll marry. So the next time you step on a man’s toes, take a real good look at him, you just might be looking The One.
  • Eve didn’t have any choice as to who she gave the apple to. But before you give your apple away, try this. Cut it in half and put all the seeds in a pan on the stove. Name each seed after a man you know. Then quickly heat the pan. The first seed to pop will reveal the name of the man for you.
  • A woman who puts on a bridal veil and holds orange blossoms on any occasion, but not her own wedding, will never marry.
  • If you are young woman make a pie. While trimming the pie crust, if it falls over your hand, that is a sign you will marry young.
  • If a woman braids her hair and leaves out a strand, it is a sign she will marry within the year.
  • If there are many men in your life and you wonder which one you’ll marry, take 12 slips of paper and write on each slip the name of one of the men. Place the 12 slips into an envelope and sleep with it under your pillow. Each morning draw one slip from the envelope at random. Rip it up and toss it away. The last slip of paper in the envelope is the name of the man you will marry.
  • If you have a man in your life and you want him to remain interested in you and to pop the big question, never let him carry your comb in his pocket.
  • A woman who makes a good looking bed will have a good looking husband. And a woman who has an unkempt bed will have someone else’s husband.
  • If you haven’t met Mr. Right yet, but want to see his face, follow these steps. Find a well. Make sure it’s not covered so that you can actually look down into it and see the water. On the night of the full moon, toss a penny into the well. The face you see at the bottom of the well is the man you’ll marry.

Unfortunately ladies most of you will one day be an Old Wife. I’m supplying you with these tales so you’ll have something to pass along to your daughters. It’s your motherly responsibility to keep this tradition alive. Every generation has the right to hear this nonsense and then to pass it along to their daughters.  It keeps life interesting.

12-22-2012   Leave a comment

Three shopping days left.  Are you finished with your preparations yet? This posting was my valiant attempt to find a culture that celebrates Christmas in the most traditional fashion. That being said you should also be aware that my better-half was born Ohhhh so may years ago in Corpus Christy, TX and is extremely proud of her Texas upbringing.  Corpus Christi is just a stones throw from Mexico so the Mexican influences are deeply ingrained in her. One of the things I initially loved about her was her passion for all things Mexican since I love hot food and many of their traditions.  Since we’ve been together I’ve eaten more Mexican food than most actual Mexicans.  Years ago my favorite snack was potato chips but that has long since changed.   It’s now tortilla chips covered in cheese and slices of jalapenos. My repertoire of Mexican dishes has been greatly expanded and there are times when I’m begging for a traditional American home cooked meal.

I’ve always been a huge fan of hot peppers and extra super hot salsa but she’s taken me to whole new level.  I go for weeks at a time where my mouth never stops burning and I won’t even mention the other things that burn regularly as well.  I hear reports that people who regularly eat hot and spicy food are healthier and have less of a chance of heart attack.  That might be BS but if it’s true I should live to be two hundred.

It’s time for a visit to Mexico and a look at their Christmas traditions. The Mexican people seem to have a rich religious tradition for their Christmas celebrations which is something that been lost in many parts of this country. The Nine Days of Posadas is a perfect example.

The celebrations begin nine days before Christmas and include a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Neighborhood families take turns hosting a night at their home. At each home, visitors will chant asking for lodging as they carry an image of Mary and Joseph with candles. After three such stops, a family will be let in to join that household in saying the Rosary, singing holiday songs, and a nightly party for the children complete with a piñata that will be filled with fruit and other treats. Nine days of visiting and fun especially for the kids.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) most families attend a midnight mass, followed by a dinner at home which makes for a very late meal. They then place an image of the baby Jesus into the Nativity.

In most Mexican families, Christmas itself is celebrated not with gifts as in other cultures. Instead, Christmas in Mexico is more about being with family and eating, eating, eating, than with gift giving.

Gifts are exchanged in Mexico on January 6th, which is called Día de los reyes, or Kings’ Day. And they’re delivered by none other than the Three Wise Men themselves.  Children place their shoes near a window so the Magi can leave a gift and many children actually receive new shoes. Some Mexican families also have a Christmas tree but that is an individual families preference.

The Poinsettia is a common Christmas decoration. This beautiful plant is native to Mexico and unlike in most of the world, in Mexico the poinsettia is not simply decorative, it has been used for thousands of years in Mexican folk remedies.

Many Mexican families will have an egg bread wreath, called a rosca de reyes. Usually, this bread wreath also features a small, baked-in representation of the Baby Jesus. This wreath is also then used in the celebration of Candlemas on February 2nd and whoever gets the piece of bread bearing the image of Baby Jesus must care for it the whole year until the next Christmas celebration.

On February 2nd the family puts the Nativity scene carefully back into its holding and then enjoys a meal of tamales which marks the official end of the Nativity season.

All in all I think the Mexican approach to Christmas is rich and meaningful and something we can all learn from. I understand that the food is to die for and includes such traditional dishes as Mexican Spiked Cider served with tamales on the side.  It is sometimes called "Ponche con Piquete" (punch with sting), which can be as simple as a big simmering pot of cider to which rum and spices are added.

My other favorite would be Sweet Rice Pudding (Arroz con Leche).  It’s simple to make and very, very tasty.

There you have it.  An old style Christmas approach with a large religious component.  While I’m not all that religious myself their approach takes me back to my early years when my family’s approach to Christmas was of a similar nature.

Maybe next year we can take some of the Mexican traditions and mix them with our own.  We’ve already collected a number of strings of red chili pepper Christmas lights.  It could get interesting and I’m sure I’ll let you know how it goes.

11-20-2012   2 comments

Today has been the most excited I’ve been in weeks.  All of our Christmas preparations are finally completed.  Everything is purchased, wrapped, baked, decorated, and it only took two months.  All that work, effort, and thought  invested into one 24 hour period after which we get to pack it all up for another year.  Are we all that nuts?  Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical. 

You would think a huge sigh of relief would be in order but Nooooooooooooo!  My better-half is what you might call an obsessive planner and her whole life revolves around tasks and their completion.  She has a driving need to be working around the clock to feel any sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately some of that craziness often spills over onto me.  I’m just the opposite.  In my world if my tasks are complete, it’s time for a comfortable chair, a hot toddy, and a few hours of relaxation.

I was advised last evening as we were baby-sitting the new grandson who seemed to be enjoying himself a great deal by  crapping his pants, throwing up on my better-half, and screaming at the top of his lungs, that on Saturday night we would be taking a Christmas pilgrimage to Portland, Maine. We could walk along Commercial Street, romantically hand-in-hand, to window shop, people watch, and quite likely stop at Three Dollar Dewey’s for a beer or two.  I think she’s trying to establish some new Christmas traditions for just the two of us.

It’s important for her for some reason that we make a mandatory stop at Mexicali Blues (again with her Mexican fixation), a shop full of incense, do-dads, and New Age thing-a-ma-bobs.  I normally prefer walking along Commercial street when the weather’s warm and I’m wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Not so much in winter clothing with piles of snow and slush everywhere.  You should also be aware that since Commercial street is located along the water adjacent to Portland harbor that nothing says Christmas like the harbor smell during low tide. 

After an hour or two of hoofing it up and down the street, we’ll be in and out of stores that I would never visit on my own. When we’re finished with the grand tour we can return to our car and hopefully not find a gift from the Portland PD meter maids, a $25.00 dollar parking ticket.

Next we’re scheduled to take a short ten minute ride to her favorite place in Maine and the world.  The Great Lost Bear, a tavern and restaurant, located on Congress street in Portland.  She requires quarterly pilgrimages to this bar because of their massive collection of beers from all over the world.  They’ll stuff us with some of the hottest chicken wings you could ever possibly eat, a few needed drinks, and then send us on our way. Hopefully we make it home without hitting any sobriety checkpoints, being arrested for a DUI, or having our car towed. 

If we complete all of that without incident we’ll have had a wonderful time and finally be able to settle in and wait for Christmas Day to arrive. I’ll then be patiently waiting for the next twelve months so we can do it all over again now that it’s an official family tradition.  After all it’s freaking Christmas.

Posted December 21, 2012 by Every Useless Thing in Humor

Tagged with , , , , ,

11-22-2012   2 comments

Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year but for a change I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Since I’m not a religious person the holidays of Christmas and Easter don’t get me all that excited.  I participate in the activities but only because I care for the family members who go dog-shit crazy over them.  New Years was a great holiday when I was younger when drinking and carousing were the rule of the day but that ended a while back.

The Fall of the year is my favorite season.  It’s that old harvest time mindset in Maine that really attracts me.  Every weekend from Labor Day until Thanksgiving will find people at Town Fairs, Farm Shows, and festivals of all kinds.  Home made foods, home made gifts, and farm animals are the order of the day.  It’s still a place where many Maine families carry on the tradition of visiting one of our local tree farms for picking out the family Christmas tree.  It’s even cooler when you’ve had a fresh snow fall and you get to walk out in the woods with a saw in one hand and your kid hanging onto the other. It just makes the seasons feel more meaningful and it gives those kids a life-long memory to enjoy.

I’ve been fortunate over the years to have attended many family Thanksgiving gatherings with my family and the families of others.  That’s really what makes Thanksgiving mean more to me than any of the other holidays.  It’s the tradition of the day more than the food that makes it extra special.  The fact that the Pilgrims created the  first Thanksgiving is nice but so what.  What’s important to me is the family members making the effort to be together and be thankful for the things and people in their lives.  Our celebration this year was a small intimate family group with the new grandson enjoying his first Thanksgiving. He was the lucky one who didn’t overeat and got to sleep through the meal.  The food was great and the company was too.  I was in charge of the bird this year and (patting myself on the back) it was delicious.  That bird made the ultimate sacrifice and we all appreciated it.  I’ll appreciate it again over the next month or two when we can snack on those homemade pot pies he’s going to be a part of. Yummmm!

I hope all of you enjoyed  the day and your time with your families.  We’ve lost a few family members this year and have welcomed a new arrival as well.  Keep them all in your thoughts.

Posted November 23, 2012 by Every Useless Thing in Just Saying

Tagged with , , , , , ,