Category Archives: Holidays

Today is the Feast of St.Nicholas, the real Santa Claus

St. Nick is often used as another name for Santa Claus but in truth Nicholas is the original. St_ NicholasBorn 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.

For further information about St.Nicholas, go to Saint Nicholas Center.

By the way, there is a resurgence in celebrating the feast day. Usually children get treats (in stockings or boots) and often kicks off the Christmas season.

So what do you think? Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas?

Thanksgiving Lessons

1. Brined turkey is best.

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?