Tuesday, December 29, 2015

As the old year ends, and the New Year begins!

Here's an interesting bit to ponder on New Year's Eve:

In Western Europe During the Middle Ages, while the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC) was still in use, officials moved New Year's Day around, depending upon locale, to one of several other days, among them: 1 March, 25 March, Easter, 1 September, and 25 December.

These New Year's Day changes reverted to using January 1 before or during the various local with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar beginning in 1582. The Gregorian was a refinement to the Julian, adding a correction that contituted Leap Year.

The change from March 25 to January 1 took place in Scotland in 1600, before the ascension ofJames VI of Scotland to the throne of England in 1603 and well before the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britian in 1707.

In England and Wales as well as all British dominions, including Britain's American colonies, 1751 began on March 25 and lasted 282 days, and 1752 began on January 1.

So, we have been celebrating January 1, at least in the Western world, for only 263 years.

Wishing you a wonderful 2016, filled with a sense of curiosity and imagination (health, wealth and happiness go without saying!!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Greetings! Joyeux Noel!

With Christmas only days away and all that needs to be done, I have not had the time to blog as much I'd like, but I take this opportunity to wish you Merry Christmas!

I hope your "Every-Christmas'Wish" comes true, and I look forward to blogging you my thoughts on the Enlightened Age in 2016.

I leave you with some beautiful images from Christmas at Versailles Palace, Paris, as my gift to you!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Holiday Treat!

We are well into December now, and thinking of holiday parties and festivities to come. At every Christmas gathering, there are the traditional dishes, some based on where one lives around the  globe, and some based on tradition, mostly German and English, like the "Dickens Christmas", for instance.

In 1773, noted English clergyman James Woodforde, was asked to organize a holiday meal at New College, Oxford, and of course, he included Mince Pies! Below is his recipe, that was recorded in 1795.

Parson Woodforde’s Mince Pies

For the mincemeat (2-2 ½ lbs):
¾ lb cooking apples;
8 oz currants;
8 oz raisins;
6 oz shredded suet;
8 oz dark brown muscovado sugar;
4 oz lean beef mince;
grated rind and juice of 1 medium lemon;
1/8 teaspoon ground mace;
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves;
1-2 drops cider vinegar to sharpen (optional);
3-4 dessertspoons brandy, to taste.
Peel and core the apples. Mince them, together with the dried fruit and suet. Then mix in all the other ingredients. Store in airtight, vinegar-proof pots in the refrigerator. Use within three weeks.
For the mince pies (about 20):
Do not use the mincemeat uncooked. Grease bun or patty tins and line with puff pastry. Fill with the mincemeat; the quantity above should fill twenty deep 2½ inch diameter tins. Cover if you wish, but remember that fatty meat may float off a little free during cooking; it can be blotted off open tartlets after cooking. If not covered, top each mince pie with a rosette of brandy butter before serving. 

By the way, Woodforde is the author of The Diary of a Country Parson. It is a rather detailed and meticulous record of his life. It provides an authentic look at the life of country life in England at the time. You might find it a tasty treat as well!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Little Luxuries and Shared Joy!

Well, here we are again....December 1st, and it's exciting to think that there are only 24 days until Christmas. The weather has turned here in the high desert, and I actually had the thermometer indicator in my car flash the little" snowflake" and make a ding sound, as the 38o reading came up on the dash board. I love that! And, it's high time. We have had too much warm weather. It's time to get our the quilts and light the fireplace, and have the evening whiskey.

I will be placing my advent calendar up in the kitchen; courtesy of the National Gallery in London, where I bought it a couple years ago. It's still fun to open each little door every morning.

As the years go by, I like the simple things best about Christmas; the baking, the making things for friends and family, the listening to beautiful holiday music, the sharing the time with those I love. I am not feeling compelled to go to the mall. The behavior of the "Door Buster" or "Black Friday" reveler is appalling to me. It's a real turnoff.

In the 18th Century, the focus was not on buying up a storm, but "church, dinner, dancing, some evergreens, and visiting." For instance, Philip Vickers Fithian's December 18, 1773, diary entry about exciting holiday events mentions: "the Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments. . ."

Gift giving was not to the excess it has become today. Cash tips, lite books, sweets in small amounts were given out by masters to their dependents, whether slaves, servants, apprentices, or children. Children and others did not reciprocate. Our idea of "filling stockings with care" and "eyes all aglow" come more along the 19th Century. 

D├ęcor was mostly of natural materials, with the intent of brightening the bleakest time of the year. Evergreens were studded with berries and blossoms, and candles, too.

There is something very lovely about getting back to basics, and remembering that the holiday really is about Christ's entrance into our world. So, I send you wishes for a blessed and beautiful holiday season ahead, filled with little luxuries and shared joy.