Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy New Year

The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian new year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year’s Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Ceasar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year’s Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.

During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.

Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year’s resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California.

Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports centerpiece of the festival.

The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth at Solstice forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the new year with baby, which was determined to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus. (The beginnings of today's Christmas, I believe. And the reason why his birthday is celebrated at a time nowhere near when they think he was actuallyl born.)
The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the New Year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.

Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.

The song, "Auld Lang Syne" is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scotch tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days." The lyrics can be found here.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fried ELF Testicles

Fried Testicle Recipe
(Submitted by Tunka the Ogre)

1 pound ov testicles*
1 cup ov beer
1 egg, beaten good!
3/4 cup ov flour
1/8 cup ov yellow cornmeal
A little salt and ground black peppa
Vege oil**
1 tablespoon hot peppa sauce
Some ov dem papa towel dings.

* Ya can use Elf or Dwarf testicles. Dwarf testicles are da size of a walnut and are more tenda dan da slightly larga Elf testicles. Squeamish humans can use Calf or Bull testicles if dey want.

** Use 'nough oil ta cova da testicles, ba fill your frying containa only halfway ta da top ta keep dem from bubbling ova or splattering ya.

Wit a sharp knife, split da tough thin muscle dat surrounds each testicle.
Remove da skin (you can remove da skin easy if da testicles are frozen and den ya peel while thawing).
Slice each testicle inta thick ovals.
Toss da slices in a bucket ov beer and let'em sit far 2 hours.
In a shallow bowl, mix da eggs, flour, cornmeal, salt and peppa.
Remove testicles from beer;
drain and dredge thoroughly in da flour mix.
Ina large, deep pot, heat da oil to 375°F.
Deep fry 3 ta 4 minutes or until golden brown (will rise ta da surface when done).
Drain on da papa towels.

Happy Holidays!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reindeer Dogs !!!

Rudolph roasting on an open fire?

Just in time for Christmas, Illinois hot dog stand sells ones made of reindeer
The Associated Press
Updated: 10:10 a.m. CT Dec 13, 2006

GLENVIEW, Ill. - Just in time for Christmas, they’re selling reindeer hot dogs in suburban Chicago.

With grilled onions and mustard, it will cost you eight dollars at Fred Markoff’s hot dog stand in Glenview.

The reindeer dogs are made in Alaska and actually contain a bit of beef and pork because reindeer meat is so lean and dry.

Markoff says he first tasted the reindeer hot dogs on a visit to Alaska a few years ago and decided to offer them as a December special at his stand.

His other specialties include smoked alligator-and-pork sausages and buffalo bratwursts.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Gourmet's Christmas Dinner

Whole Roasted Reindeer
With Christmas Elf Stuffing

This recipe has been around for many years in many fashions
but in recent years for some reason has fallen out of favor.
Here we shall return to a true classic dish of alternative
fine dining.

The list of ingredients is as follows:

1. 1 reindeer, appx. 125-175 lbs., skinned, dressed (though
not in a tux; ha, ha) and head mounted if you so desire.

2. 6-9 Christmas elves cleaned and finely diced, appx. 8 lbs.
useable weight.

3. 8 lbs. celery, finely chopped.

4. 8 lbs. onions, finely chopped.

5. 8 lbs. carrots, finely diced.

6. 1 gallon vodka to numb the elves before you peel them
and dice them.

7. 32 lbs. dry bread crumbs.

8. 3 gallons chicken stock.

9. Salt, pepper, to taste.

10. Fresh garlic, 1-6 lbs. as you desire.

11. 3-4 gallons of olive oil for basting the roasting

A. Saute the onions, carrots, and celery in a large pan,
using some olive oil, until tender.

B. Brown the diced elves in the same pan until lightly

C. Mix the vegetables, elves, bread crumbs, and the chicken
stock, season to taste with pepper, salt and garlic to

D. Stuff the dressing in the reindeer, then sew the deer

As for roasting the whole reindeer; it is usually difficult
to find to an oven large enough to do the job. So you will
have to be creative.

My personal favorite is to prop the reindeer up on a neighbor
kids wagon. Then roll the whole shebang into the local grouches
garage and set fire to the garage. If you can keep the local
fire department at bay for 3-4 hours the reindeer will be
perfectly done.

This recipe will serve 175-225 hearty alternatively inclined

P.S. Never hunt elves in the same area each year. They have
long memories for such little beasties and they won't fall
for the vodka trick twice in two years.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I killed Christmas !!!!

If pushed far enough, a person can snap, Slip over and down the slippery slope and careen past the edge of sanity. It was happening. I could feel it. Christmas madness stalking me, laughing it's evil laugh, rubbing it's sadistic hands together in capitalistic predatory glee.

But last week there was a flash of clarity, survival instincts clicked in, and I seized my electronic weapon of choice, an average size, cordless telephone, and struck out at the evil that had become my enemy. The deadly blow was swift and effective.

The fatal act took only an instant. A couple of quick confirming phone calls and my misery was over. Years of buying everybody's presents for everybody else and many out of my own paychecks (many in our family are elderly or disabled and "only I" could get out to the shopping centers-until finally everyone began exchanging gift cards each year. "I'll trade you a JC Penny for a Wal-Mart."), years of doing "all" the cleaning, "all" the cooking for both sides of the family, most of the shopping, the greeting card creating, packaging, mailing, and putting away, and cleaning up has finally come to a screeching halt. No longer am I the Lone Ranger of Tradition Preservation. What is a tradition anyway? Sometimes it is good and provides stability, but sometimes it is an evil deceptively camouflaged in sugary sweetness and light that keeps getting repeated because someone "always did it that way" before. Because it is "expected." Wasn't Satan called the "Angel of Light?" Anyway, I was beginning to see similarities.

I hate Christmas. I've hated it for years, ever since the responsibility for literally everything fell on my shoulders with the weight of chain-maille. December had become the month of migraine headaches and the taking of extra blood pressure pills. To make matters worse, since I've been teaching at the college, it also falls during the stressful end of the semester and final exams when things at work are the craziest. Then topping off the stress level, last year we had the religious war over the ability to call Christmas a Season or Holiday. (That "your belief vs my belief" tantrum "really" made everybody feel more spiritual- I doubt anyone attracted many converts with that anal retentive tirade.) I personally don't care what people say. Anything is a little more soothing than the harsh bell ringing and commercially loaded assault on all things spiritual. Christmas was handed over to the money changers in the temple years ago. The stores are all just hustling junk for holiday shoppers, not preaching sermons. They use various greetings to lure shoppers into spending money. By insisting that only one branch of one religion's sanctioned form of greeting be used, those groups are giving sanction from the church for religion (via that greeting) to be twisted into a tool for corporate gain. When did Christmas get associated with going into debt up to your eyeballs and buying elaborate gifts that no one really wants in order to rescue the ledger balances of every store in America? I don't know. I do know that there is NOTHING SPIRITUAL about all this crass commercialism in the name of Jesus or any other purported deity regardless of what greeting you force people to say. Holding a special service at church, giving token gifts to charity, or saying a few prayers doesn't salvage the fact that it is corporate and sometimes personal greed pushed to an extreme. It isn't even a celebration of children anymore. Each toy is a self-contained ad for a movie or TV show. Christmas has become an evil thing and yet we all feel obligated to perpetuate it. Is this really what Christmas means to us? It shouldn't be. (If it were truly a spiritual celebration, we would be collecting alms for the poor, not worshiping at the checkout isle of every store in the country.)

So, what to do? I felt it stalking closer. I had my first serious headache of the season. Family started moaning about not having enough money to get people gifts without feeling guilty that they couldn't afford to give as much as someone else. (Dread and guilt, feeling impoverished, inadequate, and bad about yourself, nothing spiritual about that.) The heavy discussions about which photos to use for Christmas cards began hanging over my head like an evil Star of Bethlehem. The massive house reorganization took place in time for Thanksgiving which was flanked on both ends by a series of birthdays for 6 family members and those of a couple of friends. We do nothing but purchase overpriced gifts from the end of October until December 25th. Last week I put up the self-lit tree I purchased in the sales at the end of last year. It was smaller and much easier to assemble. I sat on the window seat next to my new tree and tears began to fill my eyes. There is NOTHING SPIRITUAL about Christmas other than using religion as an excuse for creating it. This misappropriation of religion in the name of capitalism is like an evil virus, a red and green plague, that sweeps America each year along with winds cold enough to freeze your tits off.

So sitting there with tears in my eyes, images of the movie "War Games" with Matthew Broderick began to dance like sugar plums through my head. At first the message was soft, distant, fighting to break through the fog of all the hype. Then, in a deep reverberating whisper, I heard the voice of the computer at the end of the movie delivering it's message against nuclear war. It spoke to me like the voice of God. "The only way to win, Betty, is not to play."

This year, and in years to come, we are giving no gifts, none, zip, nada to each other. Corporate America will have to find a way to survive without us. We'll gather for lunch on the 25th, and it will be a family day, much like Thanksgiving. We have decided to make a bigger deal of birthdays and scale this "Holiday Season" crap way way down. We'll keep one small Holiday Tree because it is pretty and gives us colored lights at a time of year when it turns dark too damn early. We'll hang out together and eat because we like each other. It won't have to be me cooking a gazillion course meal by myself and doing all the cleaning after. It could be turkey, or it could be soup, hamburgers, bologna sandwiches, or even a cafeteria. The important thing will be the being together and nothing else. No more massive decorating around the house or in the yard. I'm debating sending cards. If I continue, I may cut the list way way back. Or, I could make them New Years cards instead, or St. Patrick's Day, or 4th of July.

I have become the Holiday Samurai slashing and cutting out any and every thing that perpetuates the madness. But we are adding one new tradition. By making the holiday a celebration of family and our love for each other, we have decided to get a large extended family photo done each year.

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, when I was asked "Are you ready for Christmas?" I giddily answered, "Yes," and suddenly realized that I was. I almost cried all over again.

I feel free. I feel happy. I was even humming holiday songs at the grocery store and I've always hated them before.

At last I can "honestly" wish you all a "Happy Holiday!"
And may the spirit of Christmas live in your heart.