Thursday, March 2, 2017


   The Carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche, during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday.  The carnival is best known of all the others that take place in Belgium,  at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.

   Events related to the carnival begin up to 7 weeks prior to the primary celebrations.  Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing  and marching.  Large numbers of Binche's inhabitants spend the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.


   The centerpiece of the carnival,  are clown like performers,  known as Gilles.  Appearing, for the most part, on  "Shrove" Tuesday, the Giles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear.  They number up to 1,000 at any given time, ranging in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male.  The honor of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men.  From dawn on the morning of the carnival's final day, Gilles appear in the center of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evils spirits by slapping sticks together.  Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with Ostrich plums, which can cost upward of $300 dollars to rent, and march through town carrying baskets of oranges.  These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd that gather to view the procession.  The vigor and longevity of the orange throwing event has in the past, caused damage to property...some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.


   On Shrove Tuesday townspeople don their fancy costumes that were imagined and made months before and created by each participant.  In the morning at approximately 8 a.m. the drums go from  house to house to gather up the participants.  At about 10 a.m., the small groups collected by the drums meet in the heart of Binche.  It is the moment the townspeople prefer, when they discover the marvelous, original costumes.  At about 3:30 p.m., people gather at the station area.  The societies go back to the center of Binche, dancing to the music of the drums and the brass bands, forming a living multicolored ribbon.


  On Shrove Monday, the feast is a  traditional,  more private gathering of locals.  To the tune of the viols and the hurdy-gurdies, they all go from pub to pub, and from pub to friends and neighbors houses, as they get ready to invite the voil, who are dancing in the streets.
   At about 3 p.m. the children gather, just like the adults had done the day before.  The younger ones dance to the music of the drums and brass bands.  They then convene in the Town Square, they all dance to the "rondeau de l'amite."  Then after hours of dancing and singing until about 8 p.m., they leave to enjoy fireworks at the stationing area.


   Perhaps the most cheerful holiday in Russia is Maslenitsa (Shrovetide).  This holiday is considered to come from pre-Christian times, when the Slavs were still pagans.
   In the old days, Maslenitsa was for remembrance of the dead.  So the burning of the figure of Maslenitsa means her funeral, and blini (pancakes)-coliphia.  But with time, the Russians longing for fun and entertainment turned the sad holiday into jolly.   Maslenitsa with blini-rounds, yellow and hot as the sun, sledding and horse sleigh's, fistfights and visiting with your mother-in-law .  The rituals of Maslenitsa are very unusual and interesting because they combine the end of the winter holiday rituals and the opening of new spring festivals and ceremonies, which were used to promote a rich harvest.


   Maslenitsa is celebrated during the week preceding  Lent.  Every day of Maslenitsa was devoted to special rituals.


   On Monday, Maslenitsa was welcomed.  On this day people made the straw stuffed figure of Winter, dressed it in old women's clothing and sang songs, while carrying it on a sleigh around the village.  Then the figure was put out onto a snow covered slope that people used for tobogganing, which was considered not just fun, but an ancient rite, because it was thought that the one who came down the hill more than once was likely to have tall flax (good crops of wheat)  in the summer.


   Tuesday was called "zaigrysh" (game Day).  From that day on, the whole village started all sorts of activities: sleigh rides, folk festivals, skomorokh (traveling actors) and puppet shows.  The streets are full of people in carnival costumes and masks, many of them  visited the homes of their neighbors and organized impromptu concerts.  Large companies rode troikas and simple sleighs.
   Pancake Week in 18th  century Moscow,  was hard to imagine without bear shows.  Bear fun was very popular among all the classes of the people,  in the towns, cities and villages.  Trained bears amused the audience, imitating girls putting on  makeup in front of the mirror or women baking pancakes.


   Wednesday-gourmand-opened feasts in houses with blini and other dishes.  Each household has tables with delicious foods, baked pancakes, and brewed beer.  Tents selling all kinds of food appear everywhere.  They sold hot sbiten (drinks from water, honey and spices), nuts, honey gingerbread's and poured tea from boiling samovars.


   On Thursday-revelry-became the outcome from all of the fun and games that happened during the day.  It was then, that  fistfights took place (usually from drinking too much alcohol).



   If, by Wednesday the  son-in-laws were treated with pancakes in there mother-in-laws house, on Friday it would be their turn to arrange the evenings meal with blini.  On the day before,  mother-in-law's  would send to the son-in-law's house, everything necessary for the making of blini: pans, ladles, ingredients, etc. and the father-in-law's sent a bag of buckwheat and some butter.  The disrespect of the tradition from the part of a son-in-law was considered a dishonor and an insult; it was a reasoning that they would be on the scorned by their in-law's.
   Special attention during Maslenitsa was paid to conjugal relations: couples, married the previous year were honored and celebrated.   The newlyweds were put in  the spotlight in their villages, they were forced to kiss each other in public, shoes and straw were sometimes thrown at them.  Sometimes people could come to the home of the newlyweds and kiss the young wife.  Tradition required that they dress semi-formal and go out to public meeting  places in a painted sleigh, pay a call to all who had visited their wedding, and go down the icy slope under the accompaniment of a folk song.  Maslenitsa was the time for  mutual visits of families, which recently became related.


   Saturday was devoted to relatives paying a visit to the young couples homes.


   Sunday was named "forgiveness" day.  On that day people asked each other for forgiveness for all grievances and troubles from the previous year.  In the evening, people went to cemeteries and "bid farewell" to the dead.  On the last day of Maslenitsa,  comes the most interesting event-saying goodbye to Maslenitsa-a solemn burning of the stuffed figure of winter.  People throw the remnants of pancakes and food into the huge bonfire , telling their children that all the nourishing food disappeared into the fire and to prepare for Lent.

The end of Maslenitsa

   Maslenitsa ends with the first day of Lent-making a clean Monday, which was considered the day of purification from sin and fasting from forbidden foods.  On Clean Monday, people usually took baths or showers; women wash dishes, cleaning the grease and the remains of the forbidden food.



   Holidays are always fun to celebrate, but why wait a few months for the next major one to arrive when you could be enjoying some nice edible food holidays everyday of the month?  

  • March 1st, National Peanut Butter Lover's Day- This has to be one of the greatest national food holidays of the year, or at least for the month of March.  Go and make a couple of PB and J sandwiches for lunch on this day.

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  • March 2nd, National Banana Creme Pie Day-While it still may be a little cold outside, why not enjoy a tropical banana cream pie for dessert....if you want a little more tropical, add some coconut.

  • March 3rd, National Cold Cuts Day-This national food holiday is perfect for an evening when you're too tired to cook.  Just stop by your local deli and pick up some favorite sliced meats and some soup.

  • March 4th, National Pound Cake Day-What could be more delicious than a piece of pound cake served with some strawberries and whipped cream.

  • March 5th, National Cheese Doodle Day-This national food holiday is easy to celebrate.  Grab your favorite cheese doodles and a soda and crash on the couch and watch some t.v.

  • March 6th, National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day-This is another national food holiday of pure pleasure for the stomach.

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  • March 7th, National Crown Roast of Pork Day-This isn't something you wear on your head.  This is more upper crust food, usually done around Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Just take the easy way out and barbecue some nice, thick pork chops.

  • March 8th, National Peanut Cluster Day-Sure you can go out and buy them....but why not try and make some,  they really aren't that hard.

  • March 9th, National Crabmeat Day-Seafood is such a wonderful food to help you forget about the chilly nights.  Make a seafood stew with crabmeat in it.

  • March 10th, National Blueberry Popover Day-Popovers are good on their own....add some blueberries and enjoy them even more.  Served with some bacon, eggs, and cereal.

  • March 11th, Oatmeal-Nut Waffles Day-A not too guilty about something that's good for your body. 

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  • March 12th, National Baked Scallops Day-If crab wasn't enough to get you over your cold weather blues, why not have some scallop fettuccini.

  • March 13th, Coconut Torte Day- I'm not crazy about coconut.  But if you like it go get some Hostess Sno-balls and pig out.

  • March 14th, National Potato Chip Day-This has to be what a majority of people have been waiting for.  Make yourself a sandwich, some soup and grab a bag of your favorites.....

  • March 15th, National Pears Helene Day-I'm not much of a fan of them either...maybe you could poach some for you and your sweetie...with some vanilla ice cream.

  • March 16th, National Artichoke Hearts Day-My wife loves these, I'll give her a shout out for this one....HHHHEEEEYYYY!

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  • March 17th, Corned Beef and Cabbage Day- Let us give thanks to the Irish for this one.

  • March 18th, Oatmeal Cookie Day-What better way to celebrate this one....by making a big batch with your children.

  • March 19th, National Chocolate Caramel Day-Go out and split a candy bar with yourself.

  • March 20th, National Ravioli Day-Go open a can of them, pop it in the microwave and watch a little t.v.

  • March 21st, California Strawberry Day-Slice up a bowl full of them, put them over some ice cream and drizzle a little chocolate of the whole thing....YYUUUUMMMM!!

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  • March 22nd, Coq Au Vin Day-If you don't like complicated dishes that require a full day in the kitchen, do yourself a favor and head to a nice French restaurant and leave it to the experts.

  • March 23rd, National Chip and Dip Day- Another day for snackers around the world to unite, raise a chip high in the air and dunk it in some tasty dip.

  • March 24th, National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day-Time to hit the candy isle for this one, or go out and see a movie, they usually have them there.

  • March 25th, Pecan Day-Stop by the bakery on the way home and pick up a Pecan pie.

  • March 26th, Spinach Day-Also known as Popeye Day, UUUKKK!! UUUKKK!!UUUKKKKAAAA!!!..."He's strong to the finish,  that's why he eats his spinach. He's Popeye the Salor Man"!!!

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  • March 27th, National Spanish Paella Day-Takes alot of time to make...you may want to go out and have someone make this for you.

  • March 28th, National Black Forrest Cake Day- Chocolate...Chocolate...Chocolate!!!

  • March 29th, National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day-I've got to love that lemon cake!!

  • March 30th, Turkey Neck Soup Day-I think on this day, all of the turkeys are hiding until Thanksgiving...they don't want to loose their necks quite yet.

  • March 31st, Tater Day-What day isn't a good day to have some Taters!! You'all agree with Me??

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