A Holiday Primmer

by Bob Sparrow

Don’t forget Fiestas de las . . . whatever

Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year again, and we here at From a Bird’s Eye View, want to give you a primer on holiday ‘dos and don’ts’ during this new age of ‘the holiday season’.  First, let’s define ‘the holiday season’.  While Costco would suggest that ‘the season’ starts right after summer, it is usually considered underway sometime around Thanksgiving and ends sometime in January.  I know, you’re thinking it ends after New Year’s Eve, and yes, it typically does here in the U.S., but if you’re traveling to a territory of the U.S., Puerto Rico for ‘the holidays’, they don’t end there until mid-January with the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, which literally translates to ‘party on San Sebastian Street’.  I digress.

First, lets examine basic holiday greetings.  ‘Merry Christmas’ was discouraged several years ago, as not being inclusive; but if you know the person you’re extending this salutation to be a Christian, then it’s OK.  Nowadays it’s mostly been replaced with ‘Happy Holidays’.  So, no matter if you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, you’re good..  Festivus you ask?  For those who didn’t watch Seinfeld, it was created on one of his episodes as a secular holiday, as really a way to eliminate trying to guess what religion a person is so you can address them with the proper holiday greeting.  It has been described as ‘the perfect secular theme for an all-inclusive December gathering’.  Or, as they referred to it on Seinfeld, “a Festivus for the rest of us”.  OK, does that include my pagan friends you ask?

Maybe, but they are covered with a simple ‘Happy Winter Solstice’, or ‘Happy Yule‘.  Yes, Yule, as in Yuletide.  It has come to have a different meaning today than originally, where it referred to the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  I’ll never sing, “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir” again without wondering what I am really singing about.

OK, I think we’ve beat that dead horse enough.  Let’s move on to helping you understand the terms that you’ll be hearing over the next couple of months, and with whom you should use them.

Epiphany – A Christian feast day celebrated on January 6th, commemorating the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.  For: Christians, who don’t want the holidays to end on January 2nd.

Feliz Navidad – A Spanish phrase meaning “Happy Christmas.”  For: Hispanic speaking Christians

Frankincense –  a hardened gum-like material that comes from the trunk of the Boswellia that symbolizing holiness. For: Anyone who wants to feel holiness in a Boswellian sort of way.

Kinara – A candle holder for the seven candles lit during Kwanzaa. For: Anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa, it is most popular among Blacks worldwide.

Krampus – this is a half-goat, half-demon character of European folklore who punishes misbehaving children during Christmas.  For: Anyone who still uses Santa Claus to get their kids to behave.

Magi – The Zoroastrian priests of ancient Persia. According to tradition, three of these “wise men” visited the infant Jesus.  For:  Christians, Iranian Zoroastrians and anyone who can find three wise men.

Mele Kalikimaka –  A phonetic translation of “Merry Christmas” into the Hawaiian language.  For: Those who don’t find it distasteful, since it’s a colonizing party’s song using the native tongue for novelty.

Myrrh – A fragrant oil that is used for problems in the stomach and intestines, congestion and parasite infections. For: Anyone of any religion with GERD, acid reflux or other digestive issues

Wassail – A hot, spiced cider drink, traditionally served to poor carolers by their wealthy neighbors.  Any lower economic caroler regardless of religion or anyone looking for a little holiday spirit.

One last reminder for whatever or however you celebrate the holidays  – an apostrophe is no way to pluralize a surname. Let’s say your last name is Watts, or it ends in an s, ch, sh, x, or z, how would you sign a card from your whole family?

            • Wattses
            • Watts’
            • Watts’s

If you guessed the first one, which looks like the wrong answer, you are correct!  If you’re still confused or not convinced, just write, from the Watts family. 

You’re welcome!

Hope you have a Happy, Merry, Festivus holiday season.

Getting into the Christmas Spirits

by Bob Sparrow

Thuringia, Germany

Suzanne’s blog last week mentioned that the town of Thuringia, Germany as the birthplace of Christmas decorations and also may be known for its beer, and that I would be more likely to write about that, the beer. Well if that wasn’t throwing down the gauntlet then I don’t know what was.  So . . . I did a little research on this quaint little town and have found that it is indeed steeped in Christmas traditions, among them is a keen appreciation of holiday hooch. To wit: During what they call the Advent season, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, people there gather together and drink Gluhwein, a mixture of red wine, sugar and winter spices; add a shot of rum and you’ve got a Gluhwein mit Schuss, you’ve also got a headache in the morning.

So while you may not need a guide to traditional Christmas cheer like Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men’ (and Women we presume) or as The Elf says, The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”, I personally like Dave Barry’s Christmas cheer, “Once again we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observe in our own way by going to the mall of our choice.” There is of course the holiday cheer reminding us to Jingle all the way, no one likes a half-assed jingler.’

This blog however is about the ‘other’ Christmas cheer, the one that we can consume and often times helps us get into the Christmas spirit or simply helps us get through the ‘Holidaze’.  In the event you don’t have access to Gluhwein mit Schuss, here’s your imbibing guide to, and definitions of, some traditional Christmas cheer, along with their country of origin:

Christmas beer – Germany (official definition): A seasonal beer brewed for consumption at Christmas (Duh!). It is usually strong and spiced with a variety of ingredients including cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and vanilla.  I guess it’s still beer, it just doesn’t taste like it.

Wassail – England: The word comes from an Old English word for ‘healthful’ and is a beverage of hot mulled cider, originally not an alcoholic drink, but we took care of that little shortcoming as modern recipes start with a base of wine or mulled ale with either brandy or sherry added.

Hot Buttered Rum – Colonial America: How do you go wrong with butter and rum in anything? (These two ingredients along with some brown sugar and bananas makes a wonderful Bananas Foster dessert, but I digress).  This traditional holiday beverage is typically sweetened and spiced with such things as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Toddy – Ireland: Yes, a Hot Toddy is different from a Hot Buttered Rum, as it is made with whiskey, hot water and honey; some recipes add herbs and spices. Some believe it relieves the symptoms of a cold or flu as the honey soothes while the alcohol numbs. Forget CVS you need to get to BevMo.

If you’re not a traditionalist there are plenty of modern holiday cocktails that will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit, like a Poinsettia Spritz Punch, a Pomegranate and Peppermint Moscow Mule or a Gingerbread Latte with Caramel Sugar.  However, if you still find yourself in a ‘Bah Humbug’ mood, I’d recommend a shot of tequila and a regular beer back, no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg.  Country of origin?  My house.

Hoping you get into the Christmas spirits one way or the other this season. Cheers!