Saturday, December 31, 2011

Folk Sayings #3

If you find a pin on the floor with the head towards you, good luck; point, bad luck.

If you drop a pair of scissors and they stick in the floor, it is a sign that somebody is coming.

He'll take anything that isn't too hot to hold or too heavy to carry. (Refers to someone who will steal anything)

It's not the worth of a thing but the want of it that makes its value.

Not worth a tinker's damn. (Not worth much)

Proud as a peacock. (Refers to a vain or self-centered person)

Root hog or die. (Do your work or fail)

Scarce as hen's teeth. (Refers to something that is very uncommon)

Sneezing three times in succession is sign of a stranger coming.

Soot falling down the chimney is a sign of rain.

Teach your Granny to suck eggs.  (Don't offer advice to someone who has more experience.)

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimmin', six geese a-layin', five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pilgrim Geese

When I worked at Virginia's Explore Park, one of my jobs was to care for the historic breeds of farm animals. While there were aspects of animal care that were not exactly fun, it was one of my favorite tasks. All of the animals that we had were minor breed animals. (For more about minor or rare breeds, click here.)

The Park had geese from the time it opened in 1994 until 2006. Over that time span, I allowed the geese to hatch out goslings three or four times. The goslings went to other historical parks like Booker T Washington National Monument in Franklin County, Virginia. One year, I had the heartbreak of coming in one morning only to find that some wild critter had managed to get into the goose pen and kill all of the goslings. We thought that we had the pens wired up like Fort Knox, but fowl-eating creatures are a sneaky lot and they can gain entrance at the most tiny of places.

Hansel, the big white goose that I am holding in the photo below, was my love. He could be a real meany and he was not really discriminating about who he would chase and bite and that included me as well as co-workers and park visitors. I still have scars on my legs where he would bite me and take a chunk of hide with him! While some of my co-workers took to calling him "Lucifer", I really had to respect him.  He was protecting his mate, family and territory. He was simply being a good goose, doing goosey things. In an effort to make him more friendly to his caretakers, I jokingly gave him what I called "Goose Therapy". This involved catching and petting him on a regular basis no matter how much he seemed to dislike it in the beginning. You can see in the photo, he is not trying to bite me and he would actually nuzzle his head against me after SEVERAL sessions of goose therapy!

As financial problems began to plague the park and the closing of the park was looking more and more like a reality, I had to find homes for all of the farm animals. The geese went to a farm in Bedford County.  I think about all of the animals often, but Hansel especially. It is very likely that he could still be alive since Pilgrim Geese can live to be 40 years old  Hansel was only 15 when I had to say goodbye.

Me and Hansel

Lilly warns me to back off from her babies by hissing

Hansel would do more than hiss at me for getting close.  He would BITE!

Hello!  Ain't  I cute?

This is how to swim, children.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-layin, five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mystery Item Answer

Here is the answer to yesterday's mystery item:

A tobacco basket! 

(I need to apologize to everyone.  I was just informed tonight that the basket size is approximately 40" x 40", not 3' x 3' as I said in yesterday's post.)


When you harvest burley tobacco you cut the plant down close to the ground. Then you spear the tobacco stalk about a foot from the cut end with a wooden stick. (A removable metal tip is placed on the end of the stick to puncture the tobacco stalk.) You can spear 5-6 stalks of tobacco per stick.

The tobacco is then propped up in the fields for about a week so that the sun will wilt it and turn it yellow.  The sticks of tobacco are taking to a barn and hung up to dry for 3-4 months. At this point the tobacco turns brown and is brittle.

Then you wait for a really damp day to grade the tobacco. The dampness makes the leaves become moist and pliable so they do not crumble. Grading means the tobacco is separated into different categories depending on the quality of the leaves.

Once the tobacco is graded, it is put into "hands". (Hands just means how much tobacco can be held in an individual's hand and then it is tied at the stem end with another tobacco leaf.) Then the "hands" are packed into the tobacco baskets to be transported to market to be sold. The manner in which the baskets are packed allows several hundred pounds to be packed in a basket. Sometimes another basket would be placed on the top to secure the stack of tobacco.
(The above information is from an interview with Steve Dean. He grew up working in tobacco with his family.)

My dear friend, Paula Rakes from the Galax,Virginia area, shared the following photo with me of her Uncle Reese grading tobacco.

Here is a video of burley tobacco being harvested:

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Mystery Item

Do you have any idea what this is? Just to give you some perspective, it is approximately 3' x 3'.

Leave your best guess in the comment section below. The answer will be posted tomorrow.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Bad Omen or Bad Timing?

Back on December 4, my blog post was about the practice of cutting fruit tree limbs and bringing them into the home so that they would burst into bloom around Christmas .

Here are the limbs that I cut and what they looked like on Christmas Day:

Let's see now. The superstition says that if there are many blooms then you will have much good luck in the upcoming year. No blooms means very bad luck.

I am just hoping that the superstition is referring to OLD CHRISTMAS, which is on January 6. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cherry Bounce Revisited

My very first blog post on July 2, 2011, was about making Cherry Bounce. After the cherries, honey and bourbon were mixed, it was supposed to be kept in a cool place for approximately six months.  I figured that Christmas Day was close enough to six months for me to give it a try!

Cherry Bounce just after it was made back in July

It is suggested that it be drank neat, so that is what we tried. My husband says that it tastes like medicine, but I think that  it is sweet and smooth. I am a huge fan of Cherry Dr. Pepper and what would make more sense than to mix some of the Cherry Bounce with it?! Very yummy indeed.

The only cool place that I had to keep the Bounce was in the fridge.
That is why the jar is covered with condensation..

Since the recipe also mentions putting some of the cherries over ice cream, I thought that I would give one of the cherries a taste.  Ooooooo-WEEEEE!  That was a STRONG cherry!   Perhaps if the cherries were chopped up and then put on the ice cream, it might be pretty good.

The Bounce turned a deep garnet red.

Over all, I would give Cherry Bounce two thumbs up!

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 24

Today's post is purely a selfish one.  Perhaps I am feeling a bit down since all of my family are now gone.  Perhaps it is because I love history, looking at the past, and reminiscing.  This post is full of photos from my childhood Christmases plus a few stories. In putting this post together, I realized that I do not have one single photo of my Dad at Christmas time.  He was always the one taking the photos.

Merry Christmas and many thanks to my Mom, Dad, and grandparents for providing me with a wonderful childhood and many special Christmas memories.

1964--1st Christmas
Looking a tad unsure about that dolly!

1964--1st Christmas

1965--2nd Christmas
Grandma Burnette reading to me

1965--2nd Christmas
Santa, I PROMISE I have been good!

1965--2nd Christmas
Grandpa Burnette, my cousin Barry, & me

1965--2nd Christmas
Cousin Barry, Mom & Me

1965--2nd Christmas
Can you tell that I am the daughter of a trucker in this photo?

1969--Mom, me and my kitty
Notice the doctor kit on the right?
That kitty would let me "operate" on him for hours!
Doesn't Mom look glamorous?!

1970--Cowgirl Kimberly
I LOVED that outfit!
That Christmas I got so many presents that I just loved.
dollhouse, Lite-Brite, Singer sewing machine, not to mention
the Cowgirl outfit!  Check out my penny loafers!

Me and Betty Ballerina
The year that I got Betty, mom & dad forgot to get any batteries
The only batteries that we had in the entire house were two "C"
batteries in our flashlight.  Back then, EVERY store was closed
on Christmas.  Thankfully, my Grandpa who lived across the road,
had a flashlight that used "D" batteries and he gave them to me.

Brandi doll with growing hair, Barbie, Geronimo & his horse
Breyer horses, and two cool hippy-looking pocketbooks!
(I still have Geronimo, his gear and the horses)

1977--Grandpa & Grandma Burnette
I remember we walked the hills around home
searching and searching for this little tree!

I still have that skateboard and jewelry box.
(I tried to ride the skateboard a couple of years ago. . .
we just won't talk about that!)

I think that this photo was probably taken at Christmas, but I just
had to include a photo of me and Daddy together!

I used to drive Mom & Dad crazy begging them to let me open JUST one present on Christmas Eve.  Eventually they gave in and it became a tradition. I would usually try to pick something that I already had a pretty good idea what was in the package because then, all of my surprises would be for Christmas morning.

I was always really bad to go poking and digging around trying to find where my Christmas gifts were hidden and I was pretty good at finding them too! I will never forget Christmas 1979. My mom wrapped everything up as soon as she got it. Drat. And there was a huge pile of packages under the tree for me and I had NO idea what any of it was! So, I waited for Mom to go into work one night. While Daddy was watching TV in the living room, I snuck into the family room where the tree and presents were located.  I carefully slit the tape on EVERY SINGLE PACKAGE that had my name on it.  One of the gifts was an album that I took out and listened to all night!  Another was a book of piano music to Peter Criss' solo album, which I took to the piano and started playing.  After I was done "playing" with all of my gifts, I carefully wrapped them back up.  Christmas morning arrived.  I will never forget the horribly disappointed feeling that I had because I knew what everything was and I had already used all of it. I was SO sad. I had ruined Christmas and I had no one to blame but myself.

After breakfast, Mom said that she had to go to our neighbor's house, just up the road, for something. I thought that was a bit weird since we were not close friends with these particular neighbors. When she came back she had a STEREO for me!!!!  Tuner, turntable, 8-TRACK TAPE PLAYER, speakers.....oooo--wee!  I thought that it was the greatest present in the whole world. My mom KNEW that I would find the stereo so she hid it at the neighbor's house where I would never be snooping around!

I vowed right then and there to NEVER snoop again looking for gifts and I have stuck to that vow to this day.  My husband always thinks that I am going to try to find what he is giving me, but I always remember that terrible feeling of thinking that I was not going to have any surprises. It is not worth it. That anticipation is part of what makes it all so fun!!!!

I hope that you are having a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 23

A Visit from St. Nicholas
(also known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas")

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer!, now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid!  on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Click here to read a 1912 illustrated version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

This poem was first published anonymously in 1823, but it is generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, but it may have actually been written by Henry Livingston, Jr. For more about the debate over who wrote this poem, click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 22

From:  Youth's Keepsake Christmas and New Year's Gift for Young People

The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree plays such an important role in our celebration of Christmas, that it is difficult to imagine the holiday without a shiny, sparkling tree. The Christmas tree is a relative newcomer to the holiday season.

As early as 1820, there were some German families in Pennsylvania who were known to have been decorating trees, but the custom would remain a bit unusual in the United States until well into the 19th century. A Harvard College professor (he was originally from Germany), is known to have set up a Christmas tree in his home in the mid 1830s.

The first Christmas tree in Virginia was, more than likely, one in Williamsburg in 1842. The first recorded tree in western Virginia was in Stanton, Virginia in 1855.

The Christmas Tree--Godey's Ladies' Book December 1855

The early trees were decorated with apples, cookies, popcorn, cranberries, gilded and natural fruits and nuts. Homemade paper items such as paper chains and cornucopias adorned the trees. Candles, which were only lit for brief, magical moments, provided the light on the trees. Even small presents were hung on the trees which were then picked off and passed out to guest.

Virginia's Explore Park--Hofauger House Parlor

The custom of the Christmas tree really caught on when Prince Albert (a German) and Queen Victoria appeared in an 1848 print that was published in magazines. The print showed the royal family gathered around a decorated tree in Windsor Castle. Since Americans copied all things "Queen Victoria", the fashion of having a decorated tree became all the rage. By the 1860s, the modest table top tree had been replaced with full size Christmas trees.

Godey's Ladies' Book December 1850
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert & Family

When I first met my husband in 1999, we had an ornament engraved with our names and the year.  Every year since, we get a special, engraved ornament. The other ornaments on our tree are either from my family or they represent special things in our lives. There are many seashells on the tree because we do go to the beach often and we were married on the beach, there is a NASCAR ornament because my husband loves racing, there is a hand-cranked music box that plays "Pop, Goes the Weasel" because I love that childhood ditty, there are music notes, fiddles, treble clefs, and a trumpet to represent my love of music, and there are doves to represent loved ones who have died.

The Burnette-Dean Family Tree 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 21

My friend, Penny, brought a cheese ball into work quite a few years ago and it was so yummy that I just had to have the recipe. I made it this past weekend to bring to work and to my knitting group. It was a hit! What makes it so great at Christmas time is that the cherries tint the cream cheese a pretty pink and then the red cherries and green onions look very Christmas-y! (I did have a photo of the cheese ball before everyone dug in, but unfortunately, I got the dreaded "card read error" when I tried to view the other photos.)

Cherry Cheese Ball

16 oz cream cheese, softened
small jar maraschino cherries, chopped & drained
8 oz crushed pineapple, drained real well
2 tablespoons green onions & tops, chopped very finely
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, pineapple, cherries, onions, and sugar.
Roll into balls or logs and refrigerate overnight.
Roll in chopped nuts and serve with crackers of your choice.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 20


Christmas Gift!
On Christmas morning, if you could say "CHRISTMAS GIFT!" to someone before they could say it to you, you would have much good luck in the upcoming year. However, saying it first did not mean that you would receive a gift!

Wonder Ball
Have you ever heard of a wonder ball? In the 19th century, it was a popular item for mothers or grandmothers who knitted.  A ball of yarn was unrolled and then rewound with many small gifts inside.  (Hmmmm...I am envisioning a wonder ball with diamond rings, necklaces, jewelry, money, etc. hidden inside!)

Bringing ivy into the house is considered to be bad luck, especially if someone is already ill.  If someone in your house is sick and there is ivy in the house, REMOVE IT!  However, at Christmas time, when you have holly and ivy together in your home, they reunite, representing male and female so bad luck is avoided.

An ivy leaf left in a bowl of water on New Year's Eve will, on Twelfth Night Eve, forecast what your upcoming year will be like. If the ivy is still green and fresh then a good year is expected.  If it has black spots, it signifies ill health.

More Superstitions
Any evergreens brought home from church are considered to be especially lucky and, if kept in the home all year, will bring good fortune.

If you look at the shadows cast by people gathered around the fire on Christmas night and see a shadow that appears to lack a head, that person will die within the year.  

On Christmas morning, you should throw open the doors of your home and sweep the threshold with a broom to clear your house of trouble for the upcoming year.

Christmas Lore--Day 19

Hofauger House parlor, Virginia's Explore Park

Holiday Greenery

There were many different types of greenery used for decorating: holly, mistletoe, arbor-vitae, yew, myrtle, boxwood, running pine, ivy, and pine. They were tied into garland ropes called "wreathing" and draped in festoons around the room, over mirrors, mantels, doors and windows and around pictures. Now, this was supposed to be accomplished without EVER placing the plant material "upside down", as it was believed that foliage must never be placed in a direction contrary to the way it grows in nature or you would have bad luck. (Just try to hang a pine garland and not have some of it sticking in a direction that it does not grow on the tree!) Many folks embellished their wreaths and wreathing with items such as seashells, pinecones, apples and pineapples.  

There were also some flowers used as decorations:  Chrysanthemums, primulas, Christmas roses, camellias, Christmas cactus and poinsettias. If the real flowers were not available, colored paper (especially gilt) was used to make bright flowers and ornaments to place on tabletop trees and for wreathing.  

Most of the decorations, including the tree, would generally be put up on Christmas Eve so that when the children woke up the next morning, they would find their home transformed into a magical place.  

After the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the decorations were taken down,and the edible items were added to the holiday feast. It was bad luck to just throw away greenery or to even let it touch the ground after it was taken down.  It should either be burned or fed to the farm animals. Christmas mistletoe should always be burned on Twelfth Night. If it was just thrown away all of the boys and girls who had kissed under it would never marry.

I can promise you that all of the greenery that I used to decorate the house in the above photo, was burned after I took it down. Goodness knows that I did not want to have any bad luck!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 18

Christmas Cards
Even in the 19th century, people felt rushed for time during the holiday season! Some folks started sending Christmas cards instead of writing Christmas letters or making a holiday visit to friends and loved ones.  In some instances, cards began to take the place of an actual gift.

The Christmas card appears to be a descendant of school pieces which were popular in England in the first half of the 19th century.  These were sheets of writing paper with designs in pen and ink with copper-plate headings. One English historian claims that the Christmas card was invented around 1839

The first American made Christmas card was distributed by R. H. Pease, an engraver and lithographer, in Albany, NY in the early 1850s.  After the Civil War, when Congress standardized mail delivery, mail began to be delivered faster, more dependably and cheaper than ever before. This made it much easier to send Christmas greetings through the mail. By 1876, a company in Boston owned by Louis Prang was producing over 5 million illustrated Christmas cards a year.


Are you sending Christmas cards this year?  I have decided that I am going to help save some trees, and only send cards to friends and family who do not have email.  A friend of mind had a wonderful idea.  She is taking the money that she would have spent on cards and postage and making a donation to the local animal shelter.  What a wonderful idea!

Here are some images of vintage Christmas cards for you to enjoy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 17


Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are originally from Mexico.  The Aztecs named them "Cuetlaxochitl" and they used the bracts as a dye and the sap as a medicine for fevers. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first United States minister to Mexico, appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820s.  He was interested in botany and he was always looking for new species. During his stay in Mexico, he introduced the American elm into Mexico. In 1828, he discovered a beautiful shrub with large red flowers.  He took some cuttings and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. While he was a very successful minister to Mexico, he will always be remembered for his discovery of the poinsettia, which was named after him. In the early 1900s, the Ecke family in California began growing poinsettias for use as landscape plants and as cut flowers.  Today, they produce approximately 80% of the poinsettias in the US for the wholesale market.  90% of all of the flowering poinsettias in the world got their start at the Ecke family farm. (The Ecke family developed a grafting technique that produced a superior plant that gave them an edge in the marketplace.  They also had a successful marketing campaign that associated poinsettias with Christmas.)  In the 1990s, their secret was discovered which opened the door for competitors, especially in Latin America.

Facts about poinsettias

--They are NOT poisonous.  However, the milky sap is mildly toxic and can cause skin reaction in some individuals.  Even when ingested, it just causes a minor stomach upset with some diarrhea and vomiting.  Getting the sap in the eyes can cause temporary blindness. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50 pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache. Click here for more information.
--In their native country of Mexico, they are a perennial and can grow to ten feet tall.
--The red "flowers" are not flowers but colored bracts (modified leaves.)
--The actual flower of the poinsettia is at the center of the colored bracts.
--AKA:  Flame Leaf Flower, Crown of the Andes, Ataturk, Lobster Flower,
--National Poinsettia Day is on December 12
--There are over 100 different varieties of poinsettias.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 16

Some 19th century Christmas foods

Christmas Feasting
Whether you are cooking dinner yourself, visiting others, or dining out, food plays an important role in our modern celebration of Christmas. Christmases past were no exception. Having a huge meal was a way of celebrating not only the holiday, but also the bounty that had been put away for winter eating.  A truly sumptuous feast would be placed on the table for family and guests.  In addition to several main courses and  fancy desserts, strong beverages were plentiful. Meats, game, fowl, seafood (near the coast), preserved vegetables, fruits and various baked goodies all loaded down the holiday table.  A traditional Christmas dinner may have included turkey, Virginia ham, roast beef, roast goose, partridges, venison and other wild game and mince pies. Oranges, lemons, apples, pears, figs, pineapples, sugared nuts, and candied fruit were available in abundance.

Much drinking took place during the holiday season. Age, sex, race, and social standing did not affect this component of holiday celebrating.  Hard cider, wine, rum, whiskey and various imported and homemade alcoholic beverages would have been consumed. Nothing said "welcome" like a big bowl of punch!  It is believed that the word "punch" originally meant that it contained five ingredients (rum, sugar, water, citrus, and spices.)  Eggnog was also a popular drink and unlike some of the "harder" drinks, it was deemed suitable for ladies.  They would often start serving eggnog before breakfast and continue throughout the day. To say that folks got a wee bit tipsy is probably an understatement! Here is my favorite quote taken from a young lady's diary about overindulgence during the holiday season: "Ches, Bettie and I have a joyful eggnog drink--I really got tight." **

I have quite a collection of 19th century cookbooks and there are many recipes for various alcoholic drinks.  In almost every one that I own, a recipe for "Roman Punch" is included.  Here is a version from a cookbook originally published in 1839:

Roman Punch
"Take twelve fine lemons, and two oranges, roll them on a table under your hand, to increase the juice, and pare off the yellow rinds. Put them into four quarts of water, and boil them till the liquid is reduced to three quarts; then take out the parings, dissolve in the water three pounds of loaf sugar, and set it by to cool. Mix in the whites of two eggs, boil it up again, simmer it well, and strain it, and cool it; then mix in the juice of the lemons and oranges, and stir in gradually one quart of rum or rectified whisky." (from:  Bryan, Lettice, The Kentucky Housewife.  Cincinnati: Stereotyped by Shepard & Stearns, 1839, p. 406).

Other popular punch recipes include eggnog and wassail.  There are also numerous recipes for cordials, beers, and wines. If you have the opportunity, please browse through any 19th century cookbooks that you encounter.  The food is decadent and absolutely delicious!  (Many 19th century cookbooks have been reprinted, so they are available in bookstores and libraries.)

I hope that everyone has a wonderful, tasty Christmas dinner!

**the above quote is from:  Baird, Nancy Chappelear, ed. Journals of Amanda Virgina Edmonds, p. 64. (as quoted in Four Centuries of Virginia Christmas.)  Ms. Edmonds was from Fauquier County, Virginia and was born in 1839.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 15

"On the First Day of Christmas"

One version of this song dates back to 1770 when it appeared on a broadside. It was traditionally played on Twelfth Night (evening of January 5th). Each person takes a part and has to remember all of the objects mentioned by previous players and then add on an extra item. If the person missed, they had to perform a forfeit.  (A forfeit is like a dare.) The twelve days of Christmas extends from Christmas Day to Epiphany, when the Wise Men arrived with their gifts. In wealthier homes, a gift on each of the 12 days was not unusual. (I am very surprised that modern day merchants have not latched on to this idea yet!)

Here are some things to ponder about this song:
--If you read my post on wassailing you may see a connection with the pear tree.

--You might notice that on the fourth day of Christmas, the gift is four COLLY birds, not "calling birds". Colly birds refers to the European blackbird and over time it has been misunderstood and changed.

--You might get excited thinking that you were getting five golden rings, especially with the price of gold being so high, but it actually means that you are getting five ring-necked pheasants. If you notice, the first seven gifts are all birds.  Can you imagine receiving that many birds for Christmas?  Most, if not all of them, are edible, so you could just have a feast at your true love's expense!

--Some sources have said that the song was written in England during the period when it was illegal to be of the Catholic faith.  It was rumored to be an aid to help youngsters learn about their faith in secret.

--Some sources say that the song represents various religious symbols: Partridge in a Pear Tree (God or Christ); Two turtle doves (Old & New Testaments); Three French hens (Faith, Hope & Charity); Four Colly Birds (Four Gospels); Five Golden Rings (First five books of the old testament); Six geese (Six days of creation); Seven swans (seven sacraments); Eight Maids (Eight beatitudes); Nine Ladies (Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit); Ten Lords (Ten commandments); Eleven Pipers (Eleven faithful apostles); Twelve drummers (Twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed).

In any case, it is a very fun song to sing!

"On the First Day of Christmas" 
(aka "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
two turtle doves, 
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
three French hens, two turtle doves, 
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, 
and a partridge in a pear tree. 

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, 
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
six geese a-layin', etc

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
seven swans a-swimmin', etc

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
eight maids a-milkin', etc

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
nine ladies dancin', etc

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
ten lords a-leapin', etc

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
eleven pipers pipin', etc

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
twelve drummers drumming, etc

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 14

Mistletoe growing in tree (sorry for the blurry photo!)


Mistletoe is probably one of the most popular types of greenery during the holiday season.  Everyone is always looking for the mistletoe so that they can steal a kiss!

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant (actually hemi-parasitic) that grows high in trees.  About the only way to get it down is to fetch the old shotgun and shoot it down!  If you look closely at the mistletoe that you can buy in stores, you will often see where some of the leaves have been torn by buckshot. Since mistletoe is so difficult to obtain, many folks just use fake mistletoe.
Fake mistletoe
Up until about 10 years ago, I would have SWORN that I had never seen mistletoe growing in a tree. The problem was, I just didn't know what I was looking for! However, once someone pointed it out to me, it is now very hard to miss when I am driving around where there are lots of trees.  Going south on 220 between Roanoke and Martinsville, you can see lots of mistletoe growing in the trees this time of year.  I really wanted to get down that way and take some photos, but I have just not had the time.

At Christmas gatherings in the 19th century, folks would have a ball of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling.  If a couple smooched under the mistletoe, they were required to pluck one of the waxy white berries from the plant.  Once all of the berries were gone, the kissing was supposed to stop.  I am sure that over the years, people have decided to ignore this tradition because the berries do tend to drop off as the plant is handled. Since most people do not gather their own mistletoe, it might be days or weeks old by the time it is purchased and most of the berries have long since fallen off.

Do you have mistletoe in your home?