Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

Juneteenth

June 19, 2016

Juneteenth

(General Orders, Department of Texas, June 19, 1865)

On June 19, 1865 Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This ended the legal institution of chattel slavery in the United States, two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

More:

“Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day,” Kenneth C. Davis, Smithsonian.com

“Juneteenth,” Teresa Palomo Acosta, Handbook of Texas Online

“Juneteenth,” Stephanie Hall, Folklife Today

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Memorial Day 2016

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday once known as Decoration Day, the time to remember those who fell in defense of their country.  Memorial Day is now officially observed on a Monday to form a three-day holiday weekend, and the original significance has been distilled down to a 60-second Moment of Remembrance.

But there are 259,199 more minutes to a three-day weekend, and human nature abhors a semantic vacuum, so the holiday has acquired meanings in other realms:

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Seis de Mayo

May 6, 2016

Seis de Mayo

Last night, the 5th of May, millions of Americans commemorated the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla (1862) with volleys of shots — of tequila — bravura barrages of beer, and murderous margaritas. Unsurprisingly, this morning finds heads held hostage and stomachs seared from nacho napalm. Today’s Spanish vocabulary lesson: crudo means ” hangover.”

If you celebrated Cinco de Mayo with cerveza, celebrate Seis de Mayo this morning with el desayuno de los campeones, the Breakfast of Champions. The traditional Mexican hangover cure is menudo  tripe soup or stew.

Emergency hangover instructions issued by the Department of Homeland Security suggest a stockpile of canned menudo —Juanita’s,  Pico PicaLa PreferidaLa Costeña, — but if you prefer fresh relief, have an ambulance deliver a few pounds of white honeycomb beef tripe (culin or pancita), posole (white hominy), dried or fresh chili peppers (ancho, poblano), onion, garlic, and maybe a nice calf’s foot (veal knuckle). Sure beats corn flakes.

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Cinco de Mayo, fiesta grande en los Estados Unidos

May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo, fiesta grande en los Estados Unidos

Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is the biggest Mexican holiday in the entire United States. Oh sure, the holiday commemorates the 1862 Battle of Puebla, so kids in that Mexican city get the day off to watch a parade, and gringo-infested beach resorts get a little loco, but the rest of Mexico carries on as usual.

North of the border, it’s a different story. The community-based Mexican-American celebrations of the Sixties were co-opted by marketers for big multinational brewers, tequila importers, and mega-food purveyors. In other words, it’s St. Patrick’s Day with mariachis. Is this a great country, or what?

More:

“Cinco de Mayo: A History Obscured by Beers and Burritos,” Jason Ruiz, Long Beach Post

“U.S. Marketers Turn Cinco de Mayo Into Pan-Ethnic National Celebration, Joel Millman, Wall Street Journal

“How Corona Made Cinco de Mayo an American Holiday,” Adam Teeter, VinePair 

“Does Mexico Celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Find Out How Holiday Became Mainstream,” Susmita Baral, Latin Times

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Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

April 23, 2016

Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

The Haggadah (הַגָּדָה‎) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover ritual meal, the Seder.

“There’s a reason the haggadah feels goyish: Formally speaking, it’s Greek. It’s a Judaicized version of a Greek genre called ‘symposium literature’. Plato loved the form. So did Xenophon. The symposium enshrined the most appealing traits of the Hellenic personality: conviviality, Epicureanism, a love of good conversation.”

–”Platonic Form,” Judith Shulevitz, Tablet Magazine

The ancient Greek symposium (συμπόσιον) was a drinking party; drinking four glasses of wine is a Passover obligation. Diners are supposed to recline while they do so, just like the Greeks.

There’s a cute Passover tradition, breaking a piece of matzoh (unleavened bread) and hiding half of it. The bread can only be eaten at the end of the meal, after the family’s children discover it. That piece of bread has a funny name, afikomen, but its origin isn’t Hebrew. You guessed it, it’s Greek:

“In Greek, the word is epikomen and is made up of two smaller words: epi, which means after (as in an epilogue), and komos, which means a banquet or merrymaking, and is the same word that inspired the English word comedy. For centuries, Jews have taken afikomen to mean ‘that which comes after the meal,’ more commonly known, of course, as dessert.”

– “Breaking Matzah,” David K. Israel, Mental Floss

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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The Macaroons of Moses

April 22, 2016

The Macaroons of Moses
Tonight many Jewish families hold the Seder, the ritual meal celebrating the holiday of Passover. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the customs of this dinner, such as recounting the Exodus story as told in the ancient Maxwell House Haggadah and the obligation to drink four glasses of wine (oh, the sacrifices …).

One seasonal custom puzzling to Gentiles is the appearance of canned Kosher cookies in American supermarkets. Many Jews are puzzled as well, since the cookies are macaroons made with coconut, chocolate, and other ingredients not prominent in the Old Testament.

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Pope Gregory XIII, Father of April Fools’ Day?

April 1, 2016

Pope Gregory XIII, Father of April Fools’ Day?

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted the (you guessed it) Gregorian Calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March 32nd (honest) to January 1st. People who didn’t know that March 32nd was now April 1st and were still celebrating the old New Year looked pretty foolish that day, hence April Fools’ Day.

Or maybe the story’s just a prank. Pretty good yarn, anyway.

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March 17th

March 17, 2016

March 17th

March 17th marks an American popular and commercial holiday with roots in the liturgical calendar. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City (1848) started and ended at memorials to George Washington and allowed Irish Americans to demonstrate both their love of their heritage and allegiance to their new country. They weren’t trusted by many of the native-born because they were, you know, immigrants. Today the holiday presents an equal opportunity for all American adults to dye their tongues green.

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Year of the Monkey

February 8, 2016

Year of the Monkey

Much of East Asia, 1/5 of the world’s people, started celebrating the Lunar New Year on Monday, February 8th, while it was still Superbowl Sunday in America — International Date Line and all that — so Yanks had better party hearty to catch up. Don’t forget to put crisp new bills or gift cards into red envelopes to give as, um, gifts to officials and other decision makers, and mind the taboos. The holiday period continues for another two weeks, until the Lantern Festival on February 22nd.

Dumplings, anyone?

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Image (“Year of the Monkey, after Wiktor Górka“) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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Groundhog Day

February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day

It’s February 2nd, time to monitor Marmota monax and dream of winter’s end. Whether or not you believe in woodchuck weathermen, one thing is certain: you can’t have groundhogs if you want a backyard full of fresh garden veggies.

Groundhogs (aka woodchucks, whistlepigs, and marmots) are insecto-vegetarians and confirmed locavores. If you plan to plant this spring, harvest those hairy beasts now. Celebrate Groundhog Day with critter cuisine.

Serving suggestions:

Woodchuck au Vin

Canadian Fried Woodchuck

Groundhog Pie

Woodchuck Recipes from Michigan (Oriental Groundhog,Waco Groundhog in Sour Cream,Woodchuck Stew, Woodchuck Meat Loaf)

More groundhog lore and recipes here and here.

In his book Groundhog Day, Don Yoder reprints a classic groundhog recipe from Cooking with the Groundhog, published as a fundraiser by a hospital auxiliary in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the “official” Groundhog’s Day Festival (there are more than a few others ). A Georgia groundhog is on Twitter.

Five years ago, whilst stalking the elusive picture book Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather, we espied an ad for the Range Kleen Preseasoned Cast Iron 10 Inch Fry Pan on the book’s Amazon.com page and cooked up today’s graphic. There’s obviously no “storybook ending” to this post if you’re a groundhog.

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