The shortest day of the year may just have the longest list of celebratory events. Let's see...
December 21 is known in New England as Forefathers' Day. Forefathers Day commemorates the day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth on December 11, 1620. Forefather's Day was first celebrated by descendants of the original colonists in 1769 who shared a meal with many Native American delicacies, including baked whortleberry pudding, succotash, seafood, and roasted venison, as well as apple "pye," cranberry tarts, and cheese. "The Pilgrim Society has been celebrating Forefathers Day since 1820, when their honored guest and speaker was Daniel Webster." Plymouth Succotash or “sauquetash”, is traditionally served on Forefathers Day. When prepared in the spirit of the Plymouth colonists, the stew like succotash symbolizes true American food. It is a unification of brined meat, a boiling hen, salt pork, dried white beans, hulled dried corn, and turnips. I found this wonderful article and recipe @ edible traditions by Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely (PDF)
Our word “succotash,” from the Narragansett msicquatash (cooked whole kernels of corn) has meant many things over time, the constant being corn and beans. To the Native Americans it was a catchall meal of those vegetables, fresh or dried according to the season, cooked with bear fat, squirrel, wild birds, fish—whatever game might be handy. Brunswick stew and Kentucky burgoo, from other regions, are in the same vein. Plymouth colonists held their first Forefathers’ Day on December 22, 1769, to mark the anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in 1620. Holidays were discouraged at that time, and Thanksgiving as we know it not yet established. During the Revolution, Forefathers’ Day took on patriotic colors as it spread to other parts of the country. The Plymouth succotash that accompanied the yearly commemoration was gray corned beef cooked with fowl, salt pork, navy beans, potatoes, hulled corn (hominy) and turnips. This boiled dinner was often served in two parts meat and solids first, the rest later as a thick soup. It took time and care to prepare properly.
Well, it looks like next year my permanent move to Pennsylvania will finally happen. I've decided I should try to participate in the legend of The Nittany Lions, Penn States college football team. I know nothing about football but since both my kids graduated from Penn State and because my son is a huge fan, I'll add Joe Paterno's birthday to my list of celebrations for today. Heck, I might as well include a recipe from Happy Valley Saturdays A Recipe Guide to Nittany Lion Tailgating. I'll use the excuse that head coach Joseph Vincent Paterno turns 82 today. Boy oh boy, I bet they're really celebrating in PA, they just extended his contract. Oh, I almost forgot, The Nittany Lions are going to The Rose Bowl! Here's a recipe for New Years Day Black-Eyed Pea Dip.
On Sunday, December 21, 2008, Chinese and other East Asian people all over the world will be celebrating the Winter Solstice Festival. The Happy Homemaker is celebrating over at her blog. She has a tray of multi coloured Tong Yuen freshly rolled which look so colorful and appetizing it almost seems a shame to feast on them. Other dishes associated with the Winter Solstice Festival include, Tangyuan which are balls of glutinous flour simmered in boiling water. The balls of glutinous flour symbolize reunion and can be made filled or unfilled. Sometimes, tong yuen are served with a syrup of ginger. I found a recipe for Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Water while researching the Dongzhi Festival.
...In some parts of Northern China, people eat dumpling soup on this day; while residents of some other places eat dumplings, saying doing so will keep them from frost in the upcoming winter. But in parts of South China, the whole family will get together to have a meal made of red-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. In other places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour. The Winter Solstice rice dumplings could be used as sacrifices to ancestors, or gifts for friends and relatives. The Taiwan people even keep the custom of offering nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. They make cakes in the shape of chicken, duck, tortoise, pig, cow or sheep with glutinous rice flour and steam them on different layers of a pot. These animals all signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition. source
December 21st is also the anniversary of the birth of cookbook author Mary Virginia Terhune. (pen name Marion Harland) I posted for her birthday last year. I'm not sure if I included this link for her autobiography so, just in case, here it is.
Jet Chef says yesterday was National Fried Shrimp Day and today is National Hamburger Day. Can you tell I'm more interested in the Fried Shrimp recipes than hamburgers?
There are many legends surrounding St. Thomas' Day. Don't be a "doubting Thomas" here are a few to bring you along.
In the Tyrolean region meat pie was a tradition for St. Thomas' Day. A huge pie made for the whole family to enjoy, it was marked with a cross and sprinkled with holy water before baking. Actually, it was not eaten on St. Thomas' Day but just baked then. Frozen and held until the feast of the Epiphany, it was then heated and devoured by eager diners. The pie was always baked in an oblong pan to resemble the manger and cut with great ceremony by the head of the household. The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle was traditionally on December 21. Although the feast is now moved the July 3rd, this day still marks in Europe many customs, and also marks the final countdown for baking and cleaning for Christmas. recipe source
Another typical southern German, pre-Christmas delectable is Kletzenbrot. Kletzen is an antiquated Bavarian term for “pears.” Because only a few pear varieties can be stored over the winter months, the fruit is often dried. The whole pear shrivels, or, in German, becomes “hutzelig”—the sweet bread is, therefore, called “Hutzelbrot” in some areas. The bread was formerly a sign of a bountiful harvest and played an important role in popular belief. In Baden it was baked every December 21, on St. Thomas’ Day, which was not only known as the day of “doubting Thomas,” but was also the winter solstice. The bread was not served, however, until December 26, St. Stephen’s Day, or, it was said, the premature server would grow jackass ears. source
Austrian Fruit Bread This was traditionally the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle; his feast is now celebrated on July 3rd. December 21 is usually the shortest day of the year, yet this day usually commenced the Christmas preparation of cleaning and baking. Although we no longer honor St. Thomas on this day, we can still use this day as a reminder to put in exerted efforts and start finishing our external preparations for Christmas. All the weeks before should have been more of spiritual preparation.Throughout the Alps in Austria, baking Kletzenbrot and other Christmas treats begins on December 21, originally the feast of St. Thomas. Kletzenbrot is named after the Tyrolian word for dried pears, but the Christmas bread contains a variety of nuts and fruits. The bread keeps for weeks, and improves with age. Usually a large loaf is baked for the Christmas breakfast, and individual loaves for each member of the family. recipe sourceand from the Old Foodie; Pig with Onions
St. Thomas’ Day is “good for brewing, baking and killing fat swine” – in other words, household activities entirely suitable for the official beginning of winter. In Bavaria the tradition is particularly strong, and the swine is even called the “St Thomas Pig”. It is believed that if you eat well on this day you will eat well all year. This shortest day of the year is also the traditional day to plant onions and broad beans – on the basis that they will grow with the days and be ready to pick at the summer solstice.
St. Thomas' Day celebrates the Apostle Thomas who was the last to believe in Jesus' resurrection. In the German tradition, St. Thomas Day is the baking day of Thomasplitzchen; iced currant buns. These buns are the reward after a day of gentle daunting for waking up late on St. Thomas Day. A "Thomas Donkey" made from cardboard is awarded to that "sleeping beauty" and jokes are played all day. When the joking is done by the end of the day the buns are awarded to "make things sweet again." (source)
Before I go, I want to tell you about Jenn The Leftover Queen she's having a Winter Solstice Cocktail Party over at her place, go check it our, she's cooking with lemons!