Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Doubt, It's St. Thomas' Day

Tis the morning of the feast of St Thomas the Apostle, which usually closely coincides with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The December solstice will occur at 5:30AM on December 22, 2011. It is known as the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year
First and foremost, run outside and hug a tree! Yes, you heard me, squeeze that tree with all your might if you're even thinking about having a fertile harvest next year:)
Hugging trees for good luck is just one of many traditions associated with St. Thomas' Day and the Winter Solstice. In fact, many myths and legends have been spun through antiquity.
In ancient times, the evening of the 21st of December highlightened Advent. The dusk of the longest night of the year was greeted with great ceremony. For the fasting of Advent was about to finish and Christmas finally to begin. The rural people would use this night for a blessing of their homestead, the boys would gather and carry song and dance from home to home, to greet the families wishing a Merry Christmas. At Thomas' Night, the halls of spinning were opened the last time this year. The girls met and were joined by the housewifes to spin and to sew their dowry in yarn and linen. The guys came in for match-and merrymaking with music, song and lore.
Within this night, the spinning for the old year had to be finished. It was said, that in the twelve nights to come, the Lady Holle would visit the homes, look after the housework and give her blessing. A find of fibres on the spinningwheel would anger her, nice strands of yarn and finished work be her delight. And so it came, that the night was long. The young and old folks joined together to hear the ancient stories, laugh and play, til all the flax was gone and dawn was near. The longest night had been spent. And finally, Christmastime was here. (source)
St. Thomas' Day celebrates the Apostle Thomas, the doubter, who was the last to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. In the German tradition, it is customary to bake "iced currant buns" much like the Hot Cross Buns served at Easter.
December 21st, the shortest day (longest night / Winter Solstice) of the year, is dubbed St. Thomas Day. In parts of the Sauerland, whoever wakes up late or arrives late to work on that day is issued the title "Thomas Donkey." They are given a cardboard donkey and are the subject of numerous jokes throughout the day. But this gentle abuse ends deliciously with round, iced currant buns called "Thomasplitzchen". In other parts of Germany it is called other names such as Durchspinn-Nacht or Durchsitz-Nacht. Traditionally lot of alcohol is consumed and the next day is often called Kotzmorgen (hangover morning). (source)
I guess you could call me somewhat of a Thomas Donkey, else I would have posted this "emergency" recipe for Currant Cake with Rose Water a tad earlier.

If by chance you happen upon a Thomas Donkey in the near future, you may want to consider a dish of Straw and Hay or (Paglia e Fieno) as they say in Italian. I found this recipe also in the Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas.
Straw and Hay Paglia e Fieno
"The name for this colorful pasta dish comes from the fact that you use pasta of two different colors, yellow and green. Straw and Hay is the rich tasting results." You could use basil pasta in place of the spinach pasta in this dish.
The English were not without their customs for St Thomas' Day. They went A-Thomassing!
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat,
Please spare a penny for the old man’s hat,
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
Up until the end of the 19th Century it was traditional in most parts of Britain for poorer people to go door to door collecting gifts of money or food on this day. One favourite food gift was a measure of corn for making Christmas puddings or bread. The women would carry two-handled vessels called gossiping pots or pads in which to get donations of wheat (which is what corn often means in England, it being the usual term for the principal cereal crop of the area). From this they would make furmenty or frumenty (a drink of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar; its name comes from frumentum, the Latin for corn). Usually the local miller would grind this into flour without making a charge.
St. Thomas' Day was often know as "Mumping", "Gooding" or "Doleing" Day and women and children would say that they were going "a-thomasing", "a-gooding", "a-mumping" or "a-curning". When the gifts were handed out the donors were rewarded with wishes of Happy Christmas and in some areas a sprig of holly or mistletoe. (source)
There are many legends surrounding St. Thomas' Day. Don't be a "doubting Thomas" here are a few to bring you along.

  • In southern Germany, it is hoped that when a bowl of fruit, vegetables and nuts is placed on the table, a lack of them in the year to come will be prevented.
  • If you ate well on St. Thomas Day, you could expect to do so all of the next year.
  • In Austria, legend says that unmarried girls can see their future on St. Thomas Night, if they climb into bed over a stool and throw their shoes toward the door, the toes of the shoes pointing downward. If they sleep with their heads at the foot of the bead, the dreams will reveal visions of their future husbands.
  • If a single woman on St. Thomas Day can pick out a young rooster from among a brood of sleeping chicks, she will soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams.
  • In England students of past eras raced to school early on St. Thomas’s Day. If they succeeded in arriving before the teacher, they were allowed to lock him out and so escape their lessons.

  • Kletzenbrot, a moist dense bread, filled with nuts and dried pears, is traditionally baked on St. Thomas Day. The first piece of Kletzenbrot bread must be given to one’s love to make sure that his or her love and affection may continue in the year to come. Another legend tells us if you cut into the bread before Christmas, you will grow Donkey's ears:)
  • On St. Thomas Night (Dec. 20th) cut an apple in two and count the seeds in each half; if they are even, you will soon be married.
  • It is unlucky to sift flour on St. Thomas Day
  • If it freezes on the 21st of December, the price of grain will fall.
  • Those born on St. Thomas' Day will have a bustling life...
St. Thomas’s day is past and gone,
And Christmas is a-most a-come,
Maidens arise
And make your pies,
And save poor tailor Bobby one.

The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle was traditionally celebrated on December 21. The feast has now been moved to July 3rd.

It doesn't appear that I will be blogging and visiting the rest of the year. There were some complications with the first medication I was using for my eye, (pre-patch:) and now, dear readers I am on a new regiment which seems to be helping. I detest wearing a patch and the limitations it encumbers but, I am trying to be a patient patient which I'm sure my doctors appreciate:) I am however, going to try and visit you all at least once in the next couple of days and hopefully, I will be back to normal (and not in big trouble with Marion for breaking the rules) real soon. A very Merry Christmas and a Joyous Season to you all. Louise

Now days are short, nights long and raw,
With pinching frost, and slabby rain and snow;
But let good rousing fires, and Christmas cheer,
Still mix'd with charity, conclude the year...

John Nathan Hutchins
Hutchins Family Almanac

1. Christmas @ History.com
2. Thomasnacht & Klötzenbacken
3. Old British Folk Tales and Festivals: From the Weird to the Wacky
4. British Traditions
5. St. Thomas’ Day on the Winter Solstice
6. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences [Volume 3] (1903)