Wednesday, December 15

Queer Christmas Concepts

I read on someone's blog today about a cake with eggnog.  Then I started thinking, "what is eggnog?"  I mean, I obviously know it's a Christmas-y beverage, but I've only had it once and I never thought much about it.  Then I started thinking about other strange Christmas here we go....

{1: Eggnog}:  Wikipedia (the source of all my knowledge) defines eggnog as "a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, beaten eggs (which gives it a frothy texture), and liquor."  I like all these ingredients.  A lot.  But not together.  Options for liquors include: brandy, rum, or whiskey and it may be served with cinnamon or nutmeg.  

The origins are still unknown.  It may have originated in East Anglia, England, which I've never heard of, from a beverage called posset which is made with hot milk (it sounds awful, check it).  "Nog" may come from the glass/mug in which it was served.  "Another story is that the term derived from "egg and grog", a common Colonial term used for the drink made with rum. Eventually that term was shortened to "egg'n'grog", then "eggnog"."  

I'll be refraining from my eggnog consumption again this year.  I'll stick to traditional booze like wine and beer and perhaps a glass of sparkling cider or regular cider.  Eggs and alcohol should not be sipped together.

 {2: Fruitcake}:  Basically what it says.  A cake made with dried or candied fruits, nuts, and spices, often soaked in liquor of some kind.  There are recipes for fruitcake that date all the way back to the Middle Ages and even Ancient Rome.  Recipes spread and varied based on country and available ingredients.  During Colonial times in America, fruitcakes became more affordable.  Hooray.  
According to wikipedia in regards to the shelf life of a fruitcake: "If a fruitcake contains alcohol, it could remain edible for many years. For example, a fruitcake baked in 1878 is kept as an heirloom by a family in Tecumseh, Michigan.  In 2003 it was sampled by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show."

I have had fruitcake.  For Christmas my grandmother does a finger food spread (which is absolutely delish, btw) but I found out a few years ago that the mysterious cake-y looking item I never would try was fruitcake.  I tried it and hated it.  My cousin Grant loves it though, and that's why my grandmother continues to serve it.

Figgy Pudding
{3: Figgy Pudding}: This is pretty self-explanatory as well.  It is a cake/pudding type thing with figs in it.  According to wikipedia, it can be "baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried."  How versatile!  The one picture to the right has had brandy poured over it and is en flambe!  It looks like a burning cow-poop-paddy to me.  Figgy pudding dates back to the 16th century.  (I'm sensing a trend that they didn't have the best food resources...)  I'm sure most of us wouldn't have heard of figgy pudding if it weren't for the wonderful Christmas carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  How educational.  I have never had figgy pudding, and it's not on my list of things to try anytime soon.  I think someone would have to pay me a large sum.

Pot of Wassail
{4: Wassail}:  I was half right about my assumptions here.  I always figured wassail was cider.  This is pretty accurate.  Although, I did not know that wassail was also a verb (which makes sense in the song "Here we go a-wassailing..."

Turns out in the verb form wassailing's purpose is to awaken the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.  This process involved music and incantations, of course.  

As a drink, though, wassail is a hot mulled punch  consisting of: cider, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg...topped with toast?  Many recipes today have wine, fruit juice or mulled ale.    Wassail was often served at social gathering much like beer and wine today.

Christmas tree with tinsel
{5: Tinsel}:  I personally define tinsel at that ugly, stringy, silver stuff that looks like it's just thrown on the Christmas tree.  I'm sure it is thrown on the tree to give it that randomized sporadic look.  I'm sorry if you like tinsel, I'm just not a fan.  

Wikipedia defines tinsel as "originally a metallic garland for Christmas decoration..."

Nowadays tinsel is made of synthetic/artificial materials, but back in the olden days when tinsel was invented (Nuremberg, 1610...) it was initially made of extruded strands of silver.  It's initial purpose was to decorate sculptures rather than Christmas trees.  People realized that silver tarnishes too easily, so they began to substitute with other metallic materials.  "Tinsel was added to early Christmas trees to enhance the flickering of the candles on the tree. Tinsel was also used to represent the starry sky over a Nativity scene." (wikipedia)

My grandmother always had tinsel on her trees, so I just assumed it was invented in the 1940s/50s.  I was fascinated to learn it's origins.

Last but not least...

{6: Red and Green}:  This was more of a curiosity for me.  I always wonderful what made red and green the "official colors of Christmas."  There are so many colors associated with the holidays (red, green, blue, white, gold, silver, etc) but I never understood why it was such a faux pas to wear red and green together (especially in like, April) because otherwise you look like Christmas.  I looked it up and evidently the color red associated with Christmas is meant to represent the blood of Jesus.  Practical, except, wrong holiday.  Green is meant to symbolize eternal life.  Ya know, like Christmas trees and wreaths.  How festive and who knew?  I just assumed it was cause Christmas trees are green (very true) and berries are red.  Haha jk.  I don't know what I thought.

I hope you enjoyed your history lesson of Christmas traditions.  I personally found it very informational.

Now onto thoughts about Santa Claus...

Does anyone else think it's weird and rather creepy that we let our children believe that a big, fat, old man breaks into their houses and for an exchange of cookies and milk he leaves presents? (talk about crappy currency exchange!)  I mean, we encourage our children not to talk to strangers, but then it's perfectly acceptable for a man in a red suit to come down their chimney and leave toys.  Just an interesting thing to ponder.

Happy Hump Day.  Can't wait for the weekend!


Thisisme said...

Your blog is looking very festive today! You have done a lot of research for this post. Well done you! I think, here in England, that eggnog is known as Advocaat. I know that my mum always used to have a glass at Christmas, but I certainly don't fancy it. I never knew about the red and green before, and what it is supposed to represent, so I am sure that we will all learn a lot from this post.

Bouncin' Barb said...

This was a great read. It validated for me why I hate eggnog, fruitcake, and figgy pudding. I love the mulled cider smell but not to drink. I love the red and green and I figure Santa's got cold feet and hands so he needs to come in to warm up a bit and grab some sustenance. haha. It's a fun holiday for kids that's for sure. Thank you for the research.

Miss Vicki said...

...It looks like a burning cow paddy to me'...this is exactly what I thought when I looked at the

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