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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 01/04/12

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

6 NEW YEARS TRADITIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!







   New Year traditions that all Americans are familiar with include the ball drop in Times Square, the Tournament of Roses Parade, fireworks, year-end lists, New Year resolutions, a toast and/or a kiss at midnight, Auld Lang Syne, and predictions for the year ahead. Here are some other customs you might not be as familiar with.


1. Años Viejos



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   In Ecuador, December 31st is time to ceremonially burn an effigy named Años Viejos, or Years Old. The dummies are made of old clothes and sticks or sawdust for stuffing, and often made to look like someone who has made a negative impact during the year, such as a politician. See pictures of many different os Viejos here.'


2. First-Footer



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   Scotland marks Hogmanay on December 31st, although the celebration lasts several days, with customs varying by locality. One of the customs associated with the new year is that of the first-footer, or the first person to visit your home after midnight on New Years Day. It is good luck if your first-footer is a tall handsome man with dark hair, preferably bringing a small gift. Remnants of this custom are found in America, too -I have a relative who gets very upset if the first person who calls her in the new year is a woman.


3. Twelve Grapes



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   New Years Eve is called Nochevieja, or the Old Night in Spain. The tradition is to eat twelve grapes at midnight, as the twelve chimes ring in the new year. Try stuffing twelve grapes in your mouth in twelve seconds, and you’ll see how funny this can be! The twelve grapes are also eaten at midnight in other countries that have a Spanish influence. In Spain, wearing red underwear for the new year brings good luck; in other countries, the underwear should be yellow. No doubt, clothing vendors cater to these traditions.


4. Olie Bollen


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   In the Netherlands, New Years Eve is a relaxed family holiday until midnight, then it’s party time in the streets with fireworks and revelry! The Dutch serve doughnuts or fritters called Olie Bollen, traditionally served for breakfast or snacks on New Years Eve and New Years Day. Make your own Olie Bollen with this recipe.



5. Black-Eyed Peas and Hog Jowls


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   In the American South, you must eat a meal of pork (originally hog jowl), black-eyed peas, and greens on New Years Day to ensure a good year ahead. Hog jowl symbolizes health (believe it or not), black-eyed peas represent good luck, and greens (originally cabbage, but mustard or collard greens are used also) symbolize money. Local variations include ham hocks, ham, or bacon for hog jowl, saurkraut, cabbage rolls, Hoppin’ John, or other soups or casseroles that contain these items.






6. Dinner for One


   In Germany and Scandinavia, TV stations broadcast Dinner For One, a British comedy sketch about a woman celebrating her 90th birthday. The sketch has nothing to do with the New Year holiday, but has become such a tradition that it landed in The Guiness Book of World Records as the most repeated TV show ever! In the routine, Miss Sophie has outlived her friends, so her butler plays the part of each at the birthday dinner, which means he must drink multiple toasts. The most popular 18 minute version with a German introduction can be found at Google Video. YouTube has a 10 minute version of the same sketch, seen here.

HOGMANAY IN SCOTLAND!!







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The Origins of Hogmanay
A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!
   While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event - and have their own name for it, Hogmanay.
   There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay". The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day". Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est né" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes". Take your pick!
   In Scotland a similar practice to that in Normandy was recorded, rather disapprovingly, by the Church.
"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane."
Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.

Torchlight Procession
Hogmanay Traditional Celebrations
    Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north than ourselves, paid even more attention to the passing of the shortest day. In Shetland, where the Viking influence was strongest, New Year is called Yules, from the Scandinavian word.    It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.
   There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight.


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   Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns' "For Auld Lang Syne". Burns claimed it was based on an earlier fragment and certainly the tune was in print over 80 years before he published his version in 1788.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."


   An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
   "First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent (and available).
   "Handselling" was the custom of gift giving on the first Monday of the New Year but this has died out.

Torchlight Procession
Torch of The Bonfire Ceremonies
   The magical Firework display and torchlight procession in Edinburgh - and throughout many cities in Scotland - is reminiscent of the ancient custom at Scottish Hogmanay pagan parties hundreds of years ago.
   The traditional New Year ceremony of yesteryear would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires, rolling blazing tar barrels down the hill and tossing torches. Animal hide was also wrapped around sticks and ignited which produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective to ward off evil spirits. The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.
   Some of these customs do continue, especially in the small, older communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where tradition, along with language and dialect are kept alive and well. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young boys form themselves into opposing bands, the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while a member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. On being invited inside, the leader walks clockwise around the fire, while everyone hits the skin with sticks. The boys would be given some bannocks - fruit buns - for their sack before moving on to the next house.


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   One of the most spectacular Fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the North East coast. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five feet long metal poles, requiring 60 men to carry them as they march up and down the High Street. The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun, to purify the world by consuming evil spirits.
   And it is worth remembering that January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year - to give us all time to recover from a week of merry-making and celebration, all part of Scotland's fascinating cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions surrounding the pagan festival of Hogmanay.

CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES!







   This recipe comes from www.mybakingaddiction.com .  Enjoy!


Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes


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I am not what you would call a hopeless romantic; I don’t swoon over getting flowers or eating dinner by candlelight, although I wouldn’t complain if you threw in some chocolate covered strawberries! However, I am hopelessly devoted to food.
I am always trying to celebrate the holidays by finding new and creative ways to love and cherish the foods that coincide with that time of year. Since February is the month of love and chocolate, I knew I had to come up with a sensual dessert that was both beautiful and incredibly delicious. With a free morning on my hands, I decided to create my idea of the perfect dessert. Chocolate cupcakes with strawberry infused buttercream finishes with a luscious chocolate covered strawberry. Are you drooling yet?

When conceptualizing these cupcakes, I knew that I wanted to highlight chocolate covered strawberries because they are the quintessential Valentine’s Day treat. As I headed into the kitchen to begin baking, I realized I was out of cocoa powder and due to the fact that it was 8am, I was rocking sweats, and had not a stitch of makeup on, I decided to make do with what I had on hand.
After checking out my baking stash, I realized I had all the ingredients to my favorite doctored up cake mix recipe, so I rolled with it! I then whipped together my go to buttercream recipe and infused it with fresh strawberry puree, the results were amazing and tasted like strawberry ice cream!
It gets better… I then topped these already incredible delicious cupcakes with decadent chocolate covered strawberries to add a little creativity and a touch of elegance. If you have no idea what to make your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking these Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes just may be the winning recipe! Have a delicious Valentine’s Day!



Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes


Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water

For the Buttercream Frosting

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
pinch of fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 ounces strawberries, pureed
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and water. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.
3. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.
5. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

For the Buttercream Frosting

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, cream butter on medium speed until fluffy. Turn your mixer down to low speed and slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, and continue mixing until well blended.
2. Add salt, vanilla, 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and strawberry puree. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy
3. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and finish with a chocolate covered strawberry.

Notes:

- Frosting was piped onto cupcakes using the large round tip from Bake It Pretty.
- Find a simple recipe for chocolate covered strawberries here.
- Cupcakes will store in a sealed container within the refrigerator for two days.