March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a day which faithful Irish (and others) remember St. Patrick. He is the patron saint of the emerald isle and Irish are justifiably proud. In the old days that meant morning mass and a celebratory meal (usually at dinner). Since his feast day falls within Lent, it can pose a small problem should it fall on a Friday (traditionally a meat-free day). Special dispensation is granted to eat meat should the feast day fall on a Friday.
It is often a day for family and friends to gather and share a meal. Contrary to what some may think, it is not a day to get drunk. Drinking beer, hard cider, or liquors are done but it is wrong to use the day for just drinking. Unfortunately many abuse the feast day for just this reason sometimes resulting in awful things happening later (drunk driving for one). Enjoy the day but remember what it is about, St. Patrick, and what he did in Ireland.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are the opening lines of The Christmas Song. The song has been performed by various artists over the years but the best, I think, are Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. The song is quiet in its tone unlike other Christmas songs that belt out the tune with great force. Yet it manages to convey the Christmas season well and that kids are going to bed in great expectation of a visit from Santa Claus. And although not a song, a poem written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore, has also become a staple of Christmas. Titled “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” it is always worth a read on Christmas Eve.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
On 7 Dec 1941, just a few minutes before 8:00 a.m., aerial forces of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in two waves. 3,500 men were killed or wounded, 18 ships sunk or damaged including all 8 battleships of Pacific Fleet. 350 aircraft were destroyed or damaged in the attack. Fortunately all three aircraft carriers were out at sea (they were the prize targets) and thus undamaged.
The attack galvanized the nation like no other time. Political foes joined together in supporting President Roosevelt’s call for declaration of war. In concluding his speech to joint session of Congress he said:
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the People when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our People – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941 a state of War has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
Take time to remember today those who died on this day, remember in your thoughts those who survived and families of the fallen.
St. Nick is often used as another name for Santa Claus but in truth Nicholas is the original. Born in the third century a.d., Nicholas became well known for his charity to children and others. He was imprisoned by the Romans and beaten. He never renounced his faith. Later when released when Constantine became emperor, he continued his life serving God and his faith. He lived to be a very old man dying on 6 December 343. Stories of his charity to children and others spread and long after his death people still revered him with churches built in his name. Stories of miracles attributed to him emerged as well.
The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches all have his feast day on their calendars (those using the Julian calendar celebrate it on 19 December). The Roman Catholic Church did not strip him of being a saint. Until 1968, every saint had a feast day that had to be celebrated in every diocese. What they did was make certain feast days optional and allow each diocese to decide whether to celebrate it or not. St. Nicholas is an optional feast day so it is up to the diocese to decide.
Stories of a mythical gift giver (often from pagan beliefs like forest elves that leave presents for nice kids) became popular in many European countries and were imported to the U.S. Various aspects from German, Dutch, and English were blended to create the character–the commercial character–of Santa Claus. There is no connection between St. Nicholas and the modern day character that lives in the North Pole, has flying reindeer, and elves to make toys. Santa Claus is a purely secular and even by some standards a pagan creation with no connection to St.Nicholas or Christianity. Remember that when someone says Santa Claus ought to be banned because is based on a religious figure.
2. Deep fried turkey is delicious but you must do it with care. Put the turkey in a cooker situated not in your home, balcony or driveway but away from any buildings. And please do not be a fool! Frozen turkey and hot oil is explosive.
3. Stuffing is not evil but stovetop and baked is the best. Putting raw stuffing inside a bird (especially with uncooked sausage in it) is pretty foolish.
4. Homemade gravy is far better than canned or made from packs. I use a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that is all purpose, easy to make and store. Nothing and I mean nothing can compare to homemade.
5. Cranberry sauce is easy to make if your grocer has them fresh. Be sure to pick the berries over well before cooking them. Avoid the canned stuff especially the kind that comes out looking like a prop from a horror movie.
8. I love mashed potatoes but for the most silky and creamy use Yukon Gold potatoes. Be sure to wash them before you put them in the pot. Getting rid of extra starch leaves room for the melted butter (put first into the potatoes) and them warm half & half. Put the cooked potatoes through either a ricer or food mill. I use a food mill and it is worth the effort because the result in both creamy and silky potatoes.
9. If you are a terrible baker like me, buying a fresh pie from a good baker is a better idea usually. However Claim Jumper has a very good frozen pumpkin pie worth trying. Bad part: the 2 hour wait for it to cool!
10. 2 good movies to watch on Thanksgiving: 1)Miracle on 34th Street; 2)A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Movies to avoid: zombie. Any PBS special promising a major star but drops out every 15 minutes for a pledge break. Food TV shows that promise a perfect Thanksgiving but always end with the star eating at someone else’s place. Anything Thanksgiving from Anthony Bourdain. His ego is so big that no bird can possibly compete. Any Hallmark/Lifetime/OWN movie where someone gets hit on the head and wakes up to find themselves in an alternate universe.
I recommend America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated for good recipes.
That’s it for this year! Have any lessons of your own?