Friday, December 26, 2014


   During Christmas in Costa Rica, people like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers. A model of the nativity scene, called the Pasito or Portal, is the center of the display. It's also decorated with flowers and sometimes fruit. Some of the scene take a long time to make and all the family is involved. As well as the traditional figures, people add other models including houses and lots of different sorts of animals.
Christmas wreaths are made of cypress branches and are decorated with red coffee berries and ribbons. Most homes, shops and important buildings are decorated with Christmas lights.
   In Costa Rica, the gift bringer is often 'Niño dios' (Child God, meaning Jesus) or 'Colacho' (another name for St. Nicholas).
   On Christmas Eve, everyone puts on their best clothes and goes to Midnight Mass. In Costa Rica it's called the 'Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster); it's also called that is Spain.

   After Midnight Mass the main Christmas meal is eaten. It normal includes chicken and pork tamales that have been wrapped for cooking in plantain leaves. To drink there's lots of egg nog and rum punch!
   After Christmas, and into January, there are lots of fiestas, parades, rodeos, street parties, bull runs and choral and dance festivals. On 26th December (Boxing Day) there is an important horseback parade called the Tope. The next on the the 27th, many towns and cities have 'Carnaval' with a big parade featuring dancing and big floats.


Why December 26 is a 'monster' shopping day: 4 theories

   The day after Christmas is second only to Black Friday as the year's busiest shopping day — thanks, in part, to a tendency for people to buy themselves delayed presents.

If projections come to pass, the day after Christmas this year may break holiday sales records.

1. More people are spending on themselves.

Plan on hitting the mall today? You're not alone. In a recent American Express survey, 57 percent of Americans said they planned to go shopping on December 26, up from 43 percent in 2010. In fact, the day after Christmas is second only to Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year. But why are more Americans willing to circle around crowded parking lots than last year? Here, 4 theories:
In the days leading up to Christmas, Americans are consumed with shopping for friends and family. After the 25th, the focus shifts. One out of five shoppers will be cashing in gift cards they got from Santa, says Brad Tuttle at TIME, with many purchasing holiday presents for themselves — "a continuation of one of the season's hottest trends." What are they buying? TVs and clothing, primarily.

2. Struggling retailers mean stronger discounts.

While sales over Thanksgiving weekend of this year were promising, many stores bit off more inventory than they could chew for the month of December. Retailers like Gap and Ann Taylor, for example, are offering store-wide clearances of more than fifty percent off, looking to unload merchandise. "The inventory is worth so much less in two weeks," one anonymous chief executive of a retailer tells the New York Times. Stores are trying to take advantage of the momentary surge in traffic before the New Year. "With that kind of inventory, you’ve got to get rid of it. Whatever the margin is today, it’s that much lower next week and the week after."

3. The day after Christmas falls on a Monday instead of a Sunday.  

 One reason for the uptick in shopping interest, says Fox News, is that compared with last year's big shopping day — which fell on a Sunday, "when many people spend time with family" — 2011's post-Christmas spree comes on a Monday. And since most offices are giving employees the day off, they have ample time to brave long return lines.

4. People are simply postponing Christmas Day.  

Since more retailers are offering huge bargains on a "wider variety of items than they do in the weeks leading up to the holiday," some "cost-conscious" shoppers are waiting until after December 25th to go gift shopping, says Christina Rexrode at the Associated Press. Online spending in the days following Christmas has grown as much as 56 percent compared to previous years, and when you factor in the "the headache of shopping in the pre-Christmas madness," it's easy to understand why celebrating Christmas a little later has come to make sense.


This recipe comes from www.bravetart.com .  A change of pace than your average egg nog recipe.   Probably better to consume and enjoy as well.  Good luck!

Egg Nog Shake ·  (serves 4)

I originally shared this recipe for my column on Serious Eats. You can read more about the terrifying ingredients found in a McDonald's Egg Nog Shake, but I’ll give you the short story: there are thirteen ingredients in the cherry alone. Not kidding.
So, skip the drive through and make something you don’t have to be scared of.
What gives this egg nog its distinctive flavor is chopped, not grated, nutmeg. Whether with pre-ground nutmeg from the jar or freshly grated as needed, most people only use nutmeg in its smallest form. Now imagine if you only used garlic that way in cooking. No sliced garlic. No whole cloves smashed open. No chopped garlic. No minced garlic. Only garlic paste.
Yeah. More than vampires would die in the aftermath, that’s for sure. Used like that, garlic would often overwhelm rather than enhance many dishes.
Same thing here. Grated nutmeg is…great. But sometimes too intense. Chopping it releases the same flavor, but in a much more gentle way. Meanwhile, a little bit of cinnamon steeped into the base rounds out the flavor and delivers spot-on McDonald’s perfection.

McDonald's Style egg nog shake

Egg Nog Shake

12 ounces whole milk
8 ounces heavy cream
1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split and scraped; seeds reserved
1 cinnamon stick, about 3” long
3 whole nutmegs, roughly chopped
3 ounces egg yolks (from about 4 eggs)
7 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon salt (use only 3/4 teaspoon for authentic McDonald’s sweetness)
2 ounces Frangelico
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
Whipped Cream Mix-In
12 ounces heavy cream
2 ounces brown sugar
Optional: 4 Maraschino cherries
Especially awesome with Molasses Ginger Cookies (gluten free)
In a medium pot, bring the milk and cream to a simmer together with the vanilla bean, cinnamon and nutmeg. When the mixture simmers, shut off heat and cover. Steep one hour.
Meanwhile whisk the sugar gradually into the egg yolks. It’s a lot of sugar, so don’t dump it in all at once or it will be difficult to incorporate. Whisk in the salt.
Return dairy to a simmer and fish out the vanilla bean and spices (don’t worry if any nutmeg chunks slip past; you’ll strain them out later). Use a spatula to scrape out the heavily flavored cream from inside the vanilla pod.
Temper the hot cream into the egg yolks, one ladle-full at a time. Then whisk the egg mixture back into the cream. Turn heat to medium low. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape all along the bottom of the pot to avoid curdling.
Normally, ice cream recipes entreat you to cook until the mixture is “thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon,” but with this recipe, that’s harder to judge. Instead, cook until a thermometer registers 145° F. If you’re more cavalier about these things, just cook until it is extremely hot to the touch.
Immediately shut off the heat and strain the custard through a sieve and into a large bowl. Discard any bits of nutmeg that remain. Stir in the Frangelico and vanilla extract. Cool in an ice bath and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; about six hours.
Shake it up
To make it a proper “shake” you’ll need to super-cool the mixture and fluff it up a bit. The best way is to do this with an ice cream machine. Process the chilled ice cream base in ice cream maker just until it begins to thicken, about 15 minutes; you want it just a little softer than soft serve. If you don’t have a machine, you can skip this step. Your shake will have a thinner body, but will still be delicious.
While the shake base churns, combine the brown sugar and whipped cream in a medium bowl. Whip on medium speed until the cream holds stiff peaks. Transfer about four ounces to a pastry bag, fitted with a large star tip. Set aside.
Shut off the ice cream maker and pour or scoop the thickened base into the bowl of whipped cream. Fold gently with a rubber spatula to combine. If you’d like to add some extra booze, now would be the time.
Pour the shake into four glasses and top each with a swirl of whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry. Put some Molasses Ginger Cookies on the side and consider your halls decked.
Happy Holidays!


   FIRST MENTION OF FEAST OF NATIVITY ON 25th DECEMBER: Possibly the earliest mention of a special feast for the Nativity on the 25th December is in the Philocalian Calendar in the year 354. This does refer back to earlier information from 336. However, in 388, St Chrysostom wrote that the observing of the festival of the Nativity (on December 25th) was not yet ten years old.

*WHEN CHRISTMAS CAME TO BRITAIN: The first records show that St Augustine came to Britain with his missionary monks from Rome, and on Christmas Day 598 it is said that he baptised more than 10,000 English people in the Christian faith.
*According to the Venerable Bede in his History of the English Church, the legendary King Arthur was crowned by St Dubricius on Christmas Day, somewhere very close to this date.
*In the year 816, the Council of Chelsea enforced the observance of Christmas on December 25th in Britain. This date was formerly called 'Mothers Night, a vigil in honour of the re-birth of the new sun, so it had been deemed easy to replace it with the birth of the Son of God. /

*PEACE AND GOODWILL: During the reign of the Saxon King Ethelred 991-1016- a law was made that the season of the Nativity should be a time of peace and goodwill, when all strife must end.
*WHEN THE NATIVITY BECAME 'CHRISTMAS' Until c1170, the festival was always referred to as 'In Festis Nativitatis' Or 'Natalis' The Feast of the Nativity. The anglicised 'Christes-Masse' did not appear until after the Norman invasion.
* WHEN CHRISTMAS WAS BANNED: Christmas became the chosen time for coronations, decrees and all manner of important events. The Reformation brought about by King Henry VIII (mid-16th century) brought this all to a stop. In 1644 the puritan parliament first sat on Christmas Day setting a trend of 'no Christmas', in 1645 they had declared Christmas a working day. Christmas actually was banned! Anyone found making Christmas pies was in severe trouble, and often arrested as an example to others.

   At this time also all the customs began to die out, because anyone found celebrating was similarly chastised. Priests were in hiding, and few people managed to attend the old 'Christe-Masse.'. No 'Waits' sang in the streets; people were compelled to work on Christmas Day, and there was no feasting or decorating of houses or streets.
*CHRISTMAS REVIVED: After the restoration of the King (Charles II) in 1660, things got better, but after over 100 years of reformation and puritan restraint, many of the old customs were not restored in their former style. Mostly, it was country people who held onto them, and although there was an element of the 'Christmas of Olde England' in Georgian England,( as you can read from the extract of CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIAN ENGLAND), for many townspeople the customs were just not there. It was not until the Victorian scholars began to research into old documents, and talk to ancient characters in villages and hidden areas of the North of England etc where things changed more slowly, that the old customs were to be practiced again. Sadly many of the symbolism and reasons behind the christianised versions of these customs was lost, a fact particularly obvious in the custom of KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE - THE KISSING BOUGH.