Isn’t it a bit strange that our calendar begins in the dead of winter and not in the spring when all is fresh born and frisky? While we’re posing questions, why is there such a concentration of celebrations at midwinter when it is cold and dark?
For starters, in western culture with its agrarian foundation, that’s when there is less work to be done. The harvests are in and stored as best suited. Whatever the required accounting and distributions, they have been completed. We have given thanks. We can take a little time to acknowledge ourselves and kick up a heel or two. Now, when days are short and dark, is when we need a bit of revelry to lift our spirits and warm our cockles (What are cockles anyway? Somehow, the shellfish of my heart just doesn’t make sense). The winter solstice is the historically pivotal point in our seasonal merry making as it marks the return of the sun, with its light and warmth, to our skies.
Now the Romans knew a bit about revelry. Accordingly, much of our year-end festivities metamorphosed out of the Roman Saturnalia and Kalends festivities from December 17 through the new year. Since the Romans initiated the seasonal gift-giving, by extension they must be to blame for Black Friday. The forerunner of the Lord of Misrule tradition so beloved by the British and Scottish was the Prince of Saturnalia. In each tradition, a child, a slave or a fool is appointed the Lord, Prince or Master of the day, season or feast. All subjects must obey even his most ridiculous command. Hmmmmm.
Every culture and historical period has left its mark on our festive tables. An early British Christmas board held the “finest dish in all the land”: the apple-mouthed Boar’s Head. Their Victorian counterparts preferred Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding. They have, however, taken up Turkey as the meal centerpiece. Though of European origins, Bacalo (dry salted codfish) is now a traditional component of a Mexican Christmas meal. In Spain, the preference leans toward Roast Lamb while the French favor Brandied Goose and Buche di Noel. Both Holland and Greece celebrate with Pork Roasts. Italy retains its regional ideals which would include in the north Roast Duck and Wild Boar. Other areas concentrate of fish and baked pastas. Southern Italy has developed a new art form in Marzipan. Why not, art has quite a history in Italy.
Our web site has many of our previously published holiday recipes including: Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney, Brandy Possett and Hippocras, Eggnog Pie, Sugarplums, Smoking Bishop, Cranberry Pear Tart and Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake. Today we’re offering up Roast Pork Rib with Cardamom Current Jelly Sauce.
Keeping Christmas and merry making are good for soul. Just ask the transformed Scrooge. The brief relaxation of the daily disciplines allows us to avoid being overtaken by serious endeavours. We need to stir good will and good cheer together in the spirit of the reborn light and year in hopes of better tomorrows and better futures.