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Category Archives: Holiday

Ramble: Canada Day 2018 (Dominion Day)

Here in the Great White North it is the celebration of creating a nation. The official launch of the experiment called Canada was launched: July 1st, 1867.

Now the reality is nations don’t just arise from spontaneous birth. One day nothing – and the next day BOOM – “look honey it’s a baby country. She will be awesome when she grows up!”

No. Political unions arise out of planned negotiations and random choices. This land was here before it was called the “Dominion of Canada’. This land was here before human’s even existed. This land has a history that begins before those of us who are living ever breathed the air of planet earth; before humans battled each other to lay down a set of values, laws, and government.

This land does not belong to any human, first and foremost it belongs to itself as part of Mother Earth.

I ended up here by accident. My parents fleeing the turmoil of 1956 Hungary, where refugees seeking shelter. Refugees looking for a place where they could top looking over their shoulders. A new home where they could stop worrying that the wrong sentence would get them arrested, imprisoned. Killed.

They had no idea where they were headed when they bundled up their two young children – a daughter about to have her 5th birthday, and their son not even 6-months old. They packed one small suitcase and walked across a frozen river into what was Yugoslavia (now Croatia). They became homeless.

The next 6 months they lived in refugee camps, while other governments made offers for a permanent home. My parents had talked about Belgium, and then the Canadian government offered them a home in Canada. They arrived by ship, landing in Quebec City, Canada in July 1957.

They became sharecroppers on tobacco farms near Barrie, Ontario. Investing in the planting, working the fields, maintaining the buildings and equipment. Learning English from the other immigrants and refugees around them. The promise of an autumn reward making them work hard in the summer heat. Eventually my parents realized there was no pot of gold at the end of the tobacco crop rainbow.

Somewhere in there another son was born. Then I was born on Canadian soil.

My father had always been handy with tools  and fixing things. He began working as a handyman, and then as a carpenter. Eventually, in 1964, my parents saved enough to buy a small run-down farm from a local farmer and landowner – Mr. Smalley. He held the mortgage because no bank would give my parents a mortgage back in those days.

My father had a love for the land and tried to be a farmer – raising pigs, chickens, and geese. And it never really worked out. There would a good few years, followed by a horrible year. He had to keep working as a carpenter. He was a good carpenter, and so he became a site foreman for a small construction company. He earned a good wage, but ne was never wealthy.  He never had a new car, and our clothes were mostly bought from thrift shops.

My mother stayed home with her 5 children, running the household. Keeping the livestock thriving. Planting massive vegetable gardens that feed us well through the summer, and throughout the winter. She canned the bounty, so that the pantry was always filled with pickles, relish, and canned fruit.  I loved her pickled beets, and I have never been able to duplicate the flavour of the ones she made from the beets she grew.

So what is my point? Nothing really. Just a reflection on what it means for me to be here in Canada. This is a nation built on compromise and acceptance. It is a vast and complex thriving community of distinct cultures. This is a country based on a ideal of “peace, order, and good government.”

Mostly that basic vision has been maintained. Yet nothing is ever made; and no lives are ever lived without making some stupid choices. Along the way there were some horrible choices made. There is nothing that can remove the past; it is our choice to be bound by that past. We are here now and we must do better. And we will do better. It just takes time.

This nation is an experiment that is always being refined. What we value today may not be valued tomorrow.

My father taught me that you always do your best with what you have on hand to make things better. My mother taught me that you can only make choices based on what you know today. If you didn’t know something yesterday that you now know today – then admit it. You cannot change yesterday. You cannot guarantee tomorrow. All you can do is be the best you for today.

Happy Dominion Day Canada. You are not a perfect country by any measure.  Yet the only truth I know is the world could use more Canada in it.  Today was good. Tomorrow can be even better.

 

 

 

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Days: Good Friday (repost)

(Yes I am recycling. This is a copy of my Good Friday post from 3 years ago. I liked it so I am sharing all over again!)

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This day seems to be the forgotten holiday of the year. There is no lead-up to Good Friday. No frenzied fanfare of festivity. No elaborate feasts to plan and prepare. That is probably why I like this holiday the best.

Good Friday really is a day off from the bustle and hustle of the consumer world. No sales. Just time to contemplate the world. I am sitting here this morning with a second cup of coffee, watching the sun peak over the horizon. There is a slight mist on the roofs of the houses as the day slips from springtime chill to springtime warmth.

I have time to think. Let my brain play with words. Roofs. Rooves. I remember learning in school that the plural of roof was rooves. But now we use the american “roofs”. When did that change? The rule I learned was if it ends in ‘f’ or ‘fe’  then to make the plural you drop the “f” sound and writes “ves”.

dwarf to dwarves
elf to elves
hoof to hooves
knife to knives
leaf to leaves
life to lives
self to selves
wolf to wolves

Of course then there are words that ignore the rule anyway – like the plural of beef is not beeves. And the plural of proof is not prooves.

Ah English the language of rules, and long lists of exceptions to the rules! This is why English is such an exceptional language.

As you can see Good Friday is for getting diverted and contemplative. Mindless musing. The above was simply pointless stream of consciousness.  A raw slice of my brain straight up. I am full of trivia. Or full of something.

My favourite memory of Good Friday is from many many many years ago. I was in my early twenties. I was with some friends driving up to Midland, Ontario to find a very specific restaurant that served Lake Huron whitefish. Our friend and driver had heard the fish was incredibly fresh and delicious.

Now I don’t remember the restaurant name but I do think it was Henry’s Fish Restaurant. I’ve been back a few times so my memory may be muddled. And the fish is still worth the long drive!

But this memory isn’t about the destination. It is about the journey. That day was a foggy Good Friday. Dense white cotton fog slowing us down to well below the speed-limit. The trees and posts shadowy dark flickers flashing by us. The road shiny black and slick. There was no-one else on the road. Just us – some friends on a journey. Cocooned in our own reality.

In the back of the car was a book – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – and for me it was an incredible find. At that moment, in that space, that book and the message inside clicked with me. There are concepts in that book that I had no idea could actually exist! My friend – the driver of the car – saw me thumbing through the book and gave it to me.

From where I sit today I can see that same book looking at me from my shelves. It is bedraggled and stained and dog-eared. The book has survived the years – my friend the driver did not. He died later that year from leukemia. But on that Good Friday there was no leukemia darkening our thoughts. On that day we were full of life twenty-somethings on a road trip. Our driver was a big robust man full of life and zest – and by the fall of that year he was an anemic husk gasping for air in a hospital bed. He was much too young to die.

That Good Friday held no hint of the sadness waiting in our future. We laughed, we talked. The restaurant wasn’t open we arrived, so we walked the waterfront. We drank early morning beers (cans in bags – oh we were so clever!) by the lake, while we discussed philosophy and how we would change the world. By the time we had finished our exploration of Midland – the sun had burned away the morning fog.

The fish was indeed wonderful, and we promised that next year we would repeat the road-trip. We promised that this would become our Easter weekend ritual. I’ve been back since then – but the ritual never blossomed. It withered and died.

In the mid-afternoon sunshine we drove back the way we had come. No hurry to get anywhere, we stopped at used bookshops and curio stores along the way looking for old National Geographic magazines. And books on World War II history. Our own version of an Easter Egg hunt for those that no longer believed in the Easter Bunny.

Good Friday: A good day to remember how we have arrived at this moment in time. And to remember those who we loved and left behind.

Recipes: Hungarian Crepes

I love pancakes. I especially love the variety known as crepes – and crepes are even better when cooked Hungarian style as palacsinta.

Palatschinke

Palatschinke (Photo credit: Mario Spann)

Ingredients
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup carbonated water

Melted butter for cooking crepes

Optional:
1 tablespoon sugar for sweeter dessert palacsinta (crepes)

Directions
1) Beat eggs into milk until blended (also add sugar/salt at this point). Pour the egg/milk mixture into the flour until fully blended into a smooth batter. The batter should rest for at least an hour.

2) When it is time to cook the crepes place a crepe pan to heat (or an 8-inch frying pan). While the pan is heating add the carbonated water to the batter and gently stir until just blended.

3) Add a bit of butter to heat in the hot pan and swirl to cover the bottom.

4) Pour a ladle of the batter into the pan and gently tip and twist the pan so that the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. When the top of the batter bubbles, turn the pancake over and cook for 4 or 5 seconds longer. Remove the cooked palacsinta to a serving plate in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Continue until the batter is all cooked. Remember to add butter before cooking each palacsinta.

For savory palacsinta fill with cooked asparagus, ham and Havarti cheese…or some other dinner filling
For dessert palacsinta try plum jam OR cinnamon&sugar OR Nutella with strawberries….

Palacsinta can be served hot or cold.

Twelfth Day of Christmas: Twelve Drummers Drumming

drummers

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Twelve Drummer Drumming…

January 5th  is here and so this is the “Twelfth Day of Christmas.”  In the Christian calendar  this is listed as the traditional feast day for  St. Julian the Hospitaller. In the UK it is the feast day of St. Edward the Confessor (also known as King Edward the Confessor). A more modern Saint honoured on this day is St. John Neumann. That is a lot of saintliness for one day!

You can read the Wikipedia entries I have linked above so I won’t spend too much time on the details of their lives of these Saints. St. Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of travelers,  has an interesting myth associated with him where he is tricked into killing his parents. St. Edward, the patron saint of difficult marriages (yes before there was an App for there – that was a Saint for that…), was the only King of England to be canonized.

The modern saint of the day – St. John Neumann – was a Bishop of Philadelphia, living in a time when there was a rabid anti-catholic sentiment in the USA. Feelings were so strong that there were burnings of Catholic Churches, schools and seminaries.  It is a fascinating parallel to the strong feelings currently sweeping through the USA – especially related to “non-Christians”. Politically this lead to the Know Nothing movement and included the 1852 American Party which reads like an ancestor of the Tea Party movement. Its main platform was opposition to all foreigners (especially non-Protestants), and its motto was “Americans must rule America.” The more things change the more they stay the same!

Now that has very little to do with Christmas as a celebration  – but it sure is a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of US politics and world social movements.

In the secular traditions of Christmas this is Twelfth Day, and tonight then is Twelfth Night. Most of us know the the Twelfth Night as a play be Willaim Shakespeare. The title of Twelfth Night refers to the magic that flows into the world during Christmastide, as the old order of the world is over-turned by the coming of  Christ. The play itself reflects the Carnivalesque atmosphere of Yuletide – where things are reversed and confused and involves cross-dressing, switching of roles (master becomes servant – servant is master). Christmastide reflects the essential fact that Christianity has rather rebellious roots at its foundation.  A virgin has a child – and that child is the divine become human. The barrier between heaven and earth is breached and will never be the same.

Twelfth Night as the Eve of the Epiphany, and as a Christmas tradition, is a day of celebration and carousing. It is a festive occasion marked by merrymaking, feasting and drinking. The wassail punch of the song “Here We Come a Wassailing” is an important part of the English tradition for Twelfth Night. The carol itself has become associated with Christmas Eve, however more traditionally it was part of Twelfth Night celebrations.  This is a night for singing, dancing, drinking and celebrating.

The modern Twelfth Night is now the traditional time for Christmas decorations to be removed and put away. Any edible decorations are distributed and eaten. My parents would have colorfully wrapped marzipan on our Christmas tree – and any we hadn’t already consumed would be eaten that night. My mother always pretended surprise at the many wrappers stuffed with tissue – the delightful marzipan somehow transmuted into paper.

In the Christian context, Twelfth Night is celebrating the Eve of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th is the day the three wise men arrive and the “manifestation” of god as human within the infant Jesus. This is part of the “upside-down” nature of Christmastide. On Christmas eve, the birth of Jesus is revealed to the animals in the stable, and then announced to the ordinary people first – “shepherds watching their flocks by night.” The elite of the world must wait until later for the revelation of the manifestation of god. With the appearance of the three wise-men and their gifts worthy of  a King bestowed the promise of Christmas is delivered into the world.

Since the actual day of the Epiphany is a joyous and solemn event  – Twelfth Night is then a chance to revel in the unfettered  merriment of Christmastide one last time. Perhaps having a hang-over makes for quiet worship the next day.

So on this Twelfth Night – eat, drink and be merry!

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Eleven Pipers Piping

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping…

January 4th  is here and so this is the “Eleventh Day of Christmas.”  In the Christian Christmas tradition this is the octave day for the feast of the Holy Innocents. The saint venerated today is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint.

In reading the Wikipedia entry on Elizabeth Ann Senton it seems she was a woman who encountered many difficulties and tragedies through her life, and through her faith she was able to overcome that adversity. She was born into a family of standing and so had access to an education, and to resources to assist her in her struggles. Still she could have simply withdrawn from the world and avoided the world – instead she used her standing, and resources to improve education. This is why she is considered the patron saint of Catholic Schools in the United States.

As the major feast is the last day of the octave for the Feast of Holy Innocents – it is strangely fitting that the Saint of the day be considered a guardian of schools. While much of the Christmas season is focused on joy and celebration, the secondary themes of tragedy and sorrow are also part of the Christmas tapestry. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is not a prominent part of our current cultural experience – yet with the horrible memory of the shooting at Sandy Hook and in Peshawar, Pakistan still fresh in our minds it now seems that this is part of the season we need to remember.

There is no standard music specific to this day, and the carols and hymns of the previous days are still part of the rituals of tradition. Since the Eleventh day of Christmas has Pipers Piping I think I will find a nice bit of pipe music.

According to the National Days listings for the US – today is National Spaghetti Day. A nice big bowl of pasta seems appropriate. I like mine with a meat sauce – and lots of fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Mmmm.

Happy New Year – and Merry Eleventh day of Christmas!

And now I think I need a drink – so here is a drink for the eleventh day of Christmas involving scotch (in honour of pipers of course!). It is more complicated than I would might make – usually I just skip straight to the scotch.