25 August 2012

Rudolph Day, August 2012

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

Visits to Santa, Christmas trees, sugar cookies covered in icing, stockings, copious gifts, visits to relatives—all parts of an American Christmas. But what about those of other cultures? Do they have any counterparts in our culture?

Masked players called "mummers" once were very popular in Great Britain. Today in the United States we still have the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

Christians in the United States often have a "manger scene" or nativity set on a table or cabinet, or even under the Christmas tree. The French have the same, but of more figures than the Holy Family, the Magi, and shepherds—a complete village, in fact! Read about santons in Provence.

In Mexico, the nativity sets come alive! Read about Las Posadas.

Shopping before Christmas? The most famous places to shop for Christmas things in Germany are the Christkindl markets, especially in the city of Nuremberg.

Where is a New Year's Eve party still a bigger event than Christmas? Journey to Scotland to learn about Hogmanay.

A new Christmas custom is "the Elf on the Shelf." An old Christmas custom in Norway are the nisse, or barn elves. Versions exist all over Scandinavia. Feed them some rice pudding on Christmas Eve or you'll be sorry!

A Christmas Companion, Maria Robbins and Jim Charlton

This is first and foremost a recipe book, with interruptions of North American and European Christmas customs (Africa, Australia, South America, and anything east of Greece and Eastern Europe is missing in action, except for Russia). The authors briefly discuss Christmas customs in Britain, France, Germany and Austria, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Central and Eastern Europe, Canada, Russia and the Ukraine, Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal, and finally in the United States, with special chapters about Santa Claus and Christmas traditions. Each chapter then lists receipes specific to that country or region, and the Santa chapter is all cookie recipes, of course.

This is a simple book to provide you with basic Christmas customs and would be a good book to introduce a child to Christmas in many lands. The recipes range from simple to complicated, and give a good summary of holiday foods—you can make your own "seven fishes," like the Italians, or discover what "figgy pudding" is, and even sample some colonial dishes. The illustrations are black-and-white vintage illustrations on the Dover clip-art level. Best found, as I did, at a library book sale, but still of value.