Saturday, December 20, 2003

Christmas Recipes, Part 3

Cookies, desserts, and beverages having been dealt with, it is now time to turn to serious savoury dishes, the heart of the Christmas feast.

Allow me to propose three menus. Each features a single main dish after the modern fashion, with vegetables accompanying and a soup course. Somehow, salads just don't seem very Christmasy to me, so I don't include them. I'll provide recipes for some of the more interesting dishes.

For the sake of argument, let us label the three menus Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. But it is a free country. If you want to have the Christmas Eve menu on Christmas Day, it is, as I say, Liberty Hall here. Proceed with my blessing.

* recipe to follow

Christmas Eve
Onion soup*
Beef tenderloin roast
Yorkshire Pudding*
Mashed spuds
Cranberry relish*
Christmas carrots*
Mince Pie
a full-bodied red wine

Christmas Day
Cream of peanut soup*
Virginia ham
Brandied peaches*
Lemon spinach
Twice-baked potatoes
Cranberry relish
Plum Pudding w/ brandy butter
Port jelly with custard sauce*
ice cream roll
spiced punch
a light red or rose wine
dates & figs

Saint Stephen's Day
Almond soup*
Pork Tenderloin roast w/ apples and cream*
Christmas carrots
Onion pie*
Twice-baked potatoes
cranberry relish
May wine
mince pie w/vanilla ice cream

Onion Soup
4 large yellow onions
4 cans beef broth (yes, it is cheating, but I won't tell anybody if you won't)
1 t Coleman's powdered English mustard
1/4 C Bovril or Knorr's liquid beef concentrate
1 loaf crusty batard, slightly stale
1 C shredded Swiss cheese
freshly ground black pepperYorkshire Puddings

Peel and slice the onions. Fry them in butter until almost transparent. Heat the beef broth in a large saucepan, adding the Bovril, mustard, and some pepper. Slice up the batard. Add the onions to the broth, and continue cooking over low heat about 20 minutes. Then dish into little oven-proof soup dishes. Put a generous helping of the bread into each dish, and top it off with grated Swiss cheese. Put these dishes of soup under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

If you want, you can add a little Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce to your taste to the soup.

Yorkshire Puddings
4 eggs beaten
2 C whole milk
3/4 C butter
13/4 C flour
1 t salt

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the eggs, milk, and 6 T butter, melted. Add the flour and salt. Mix well. Brown the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Coat the bottoms and sides of 10 6 os custard cups with the browned butter. Fill the custard cups about 2/3 each. Place cups on a cokie sheet, and bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately. Beef gravy on these is delicious.

Cranberry Relish
1 lb fresh cramberries, washed
1 apple cored and quartered
1 orange quartered, peeled, and seeded
1 fennel bulb w/ 3 stalks cut up
6 T sweet orange marmalade
3 T honey
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Grind the cranberries, apple, orange, and fennel bulb in a food processor. Add the marmalade, honey, and walnuts. Stir until well mixed. Refrigerate until serving. Serves 10.

Christmas Carrots
1 lb fresh carrots
1 T cinnamon
2 T butter
1 t sugar

Peel, slice, and boil the carrots. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Toss. Serve hot.

Cream of Peanut Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1/4 C butter
3 T flour
2 quarts chicken broth
2 C smooth peanut butter
13/4 C light cream
chopped salted peanuts

Saute the onion and celery in butter until soft, but not brown. Stir in the flour until well blended. Add the chicken stock, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain. Add the peanut butter, stirring to blend and melt thoroughly. Then add the cream, stirring to blend. Return to low heat, and don't boil. Served garnished with peanuts. Serves 10
From The Williamsburg Cookbook

Brandied Peaches
2 cans (1 lb, 13 oz. each) peach halves
1 C sugar
1/2 C peach brandy
3-4 drops almond extract

Drain peaches and reserve 1 cup of the juice. Mix sugar with the reserved peach juice and boil until reduced to one half the original quantity. Cool. Measure and stir in the brandy (and have a drink yourself) and the almond extract. Pour the brandy syrup over the peaches and serve, or pack peaches in a sterilized 1 qt. mason jar. Add the brandy syrup and seal. Serve the brandied peaches with Virginia ham.

Port Jelly With Custard Sauce
4 envelopes unflavored gelatine
2 C sugar
6 T lemon juice
rind of 3 lemons, grated
21/2 C ruby port

Soften the gelatine in 11/2 C cold water fopr five minutes. Dissolve the sugar in 1 qt of hot water and bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add lemon juice, rind, and softened gelatine. Stir well and allow to stand 5 minutes. Then strain out the rind. Add port, stirring gently to avoid making air bubbles.

11/2 T cornstarch
2 C light cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
pinch of salt
1 T vanilla (the double-strength vanilla sold by Penzey's is best)

Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 C cream. In a bowl, beat egg yolks until light. then add cornstarch/cream mix. Heat the rest of the cream, but don't boil. Add sugar and salt to the cream. Pour over egg mixture in the bowl stirring constantly. Pour back into saucepan, return to low heat and continue to stir and cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add vanilla. Blend thoroughly and cool. If it is runny, add a bit more conrstarch.

Almond Soup
1 Celery stalk, minced
1 Garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 T Butter
3 C Chicken stock
2/3 C Ground almonds
1/8 t Mace
1 C Heavy cream
Salt and pepper
2 T toasted slivered almonds

In a saucepan, saute the celery and garlic in the butter until softened. Add the chicken stock, ground almonds and mace. Cover and simmer 30-to-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let stand at room
temperature for one hour. Puree in a blender or food processor. Return to
the pot, stir in cream and heat 2-to-3 minutes. Do not let the soup come to
a boil. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve sprinkled with
toasted almonds.

Pork Roast With Apples and Cream
2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
boneless pork loin roast, about 3 to 4 pounds
1/2 cup apple cider
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges

Combine thyme, salt, and pepper; rub all over pork roast. Place roast on a rack in a shallow roasting or baking pan. Roast at 325° for 1 1/2 to 2.1/2 hours, or until meat thermometer registers 165°. Transfer pork roast to a warm platter and keep warm while making sauce.

Skim fat from pan juices. Place pan over medium heat. Add apple cider to pan, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Pour juices into a large saucepan. Stir in heavy cream, chicken broth; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, stirring occcasionally (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter; add apple wedges and cook and stir until apples are golden in color. Remove apple wedges from skillet with slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan; keep warm. Stir drippings into the thickened cream mixture in the large saucepan.
Serve pork with apple slices and sauce.
Serves 10 to 12.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
5 large russets
1 C sour cream
5 T chives
5 T real bacon bits
1 C shredded cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

Wash and bake the potatoes. When baked, slice them lengthwise and scoop out the potato meat. Combine the potato meat with cheddar, bacon bits, chives, sour cream, and season. Spoon back into the potato skins, and sprinkle the top with the cayenne pepper. Bake at 350 for an additohnal 10-15 minutes.

Onion Pie
3 large sweet yellow onions
1/4 C bacon bits
1/2 C shredded cheddar
4 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
pastry for a two-crust pie

Pre-bake the bottom crust in the pie pan for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Peel and slice the onions, and fill the bottom crust with them. Then add the bacon bits and cheddar. Season with salt and pepper. Top with pats of butter. Add the top crust, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until top crust is done).

And there you have three feasts fit for whatever gentry you are entertaining this Christmas.

A Tree-Trimming Party Menu

I must admit that I have never given a tree-trimming party, though I attended one almost 20 years ago. I have never found people biddable enough to help me put up and decorate my tree in exchange for my comestibles. And on the other hand, I would probably not want other people decorating my house, as I would want that done to my own demanding specifications. "If you want something done your way (right) do it yourself."

But other people are not quite so anal-retentive about their Christmas decorations as I am. For them a tree-trimming party might be just the ticket. I came up with the following menu for such an occasion. It should work nicely for a small informal gathering.

You might ask, "Why Stilton?" Because of the line in The Wassail Song: "Bring out to us some mouldy cheese and your Christmas loaf." "Moudly cheese" was Stilton or Blue cheese.

Black Forest ham
A ring of shrimp with cocktail sauce
goose liver pate with Club crackers
Stilton cheese
saffron bread
Quiche Lorraine
Port jelly with custard sauce
individual mince pies
plates of Christmas cookies
Smoking Bishop punch
fresh apple cider

A Repercussion of Saddam's Capture?

I think so. Khadafy has a way of folding like a rag doll under threat. He can probably well imagine himself in the same tender loving care as Saddam and Noriega.

Then, sometimes, he uses a backdoor way to strike back, like the Lockerbie bombing.

Washington Irving's Old Christmas, Part VI: Christmas Eve

We had now come in full view of the old family mansion, partly thrown in deep shadow, and partly lit up by the cold moonshine. It was an irregular building, of some magnitude, and seemed to be of the architecture of different periods. One wing was evidently very ancient, with heavy stone-shafted bow windows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among the foliage of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered with the moonbeams. The rest of the house was in the French taste of Charles the Second's time, having been repaired and altered, as my friend told me, by one of his ancestors, who returned with that monarch at the Restoration.

The grounds about the house were laid out in the old formal manner of artificial flowerbeds, clipped shrubberies, raised terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden statue or two, and a jet of water. The old gentleman, I was told, was extremely careful to preserve this obsolete finery in all its original state. He admired this fashion in gardening; it had an air of magnificence, was courtly and noble, and befitting good old family style. The boasted imitation of nature in modern gardening had sprung up with modern republican notions, but did not suit a monarchical government; it smacked of the levelling system- I could not help smiling at this introduction of politics into gardening, though I expressed some apprehension that I should find the old gentleman rather intolerant in his creed.-

Frank assured me, however, that it was almost the only instance in which he had ever heard his father meddle with politics; and he believed that he had got this notion from a member of parliament who once passed a few weeks with him. The squire was glad of any argument to defend his clipped yew-trees and formal terraces, which had been occasionally attacked by modern landscape gardeners.

As we approached the house, we heard the sound of music, and now and then a burst of laughter, from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants' hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged by the squire, throughout the twelve days of Christmas, provided every thing was done conformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon: the Yule clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.* -

* The mistletoe is still hung up in farmhouses and kitchens at Christmas; and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases. -

So intent were the servants upon their sports that we had to ring repeatedly before we could make ourselves heard. On our arrival being announced, the squire came out to receive us, accompanied by his two other sons; one a young officer in the army, home on leave of absence; the other an Oxonian, just from the university. The squire was a fine healthy-looking old gentleman, with silver hair curling lightly round an open florid countenance; in which the physiognomist, with the advantage, like myself, of a previous hint or two, might discover a singular mixture of whim and benevolence.

The family meeting was warm and affectionate: as the evening was far advanced, the squire would not permit us to change our travelling dresses, but ushered us at once to the company, which was assembled in a large old-fashioned hall. It was composed of different branches of a numerous family connection, where there were the usual proportion of old uncles and aunts, comfortable married dames, superannuated spinsters, blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright-eyed boarding-school hoydens. They were variously occupied; some at a round game of cards; others conversing around the fireplace; at one end of the hall was a group of the young folks, some nearly grown up, others of a more tender and budding age, fully engrossed by a merry game; and a profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls, about the floor, showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings, who, having frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a peaceful night.

While the mutual greetings were going on between young Bracebridge and his relatives, I had time to scan the apartment. I have called it a hall, for so it had certainly been in old times, and the squire had evidently endeavored to restore it to something of its primitive state. Over the heavy projecting fireplace was suspended a picture of a warrior in armor, standing by a white horse, and on the opposite wall hung a helmet, buckler, and lance. At one end an enormous pair of antlers were inserted in the wall, the branches serving as hooks on which to suspend hats, whips, and spurs; and in the corners of the apartment were fowling-pieces, fishing-rods, and other sporting implements. The furniture was of the cumbrous workmanship of former days, though some articles of modern convenience had been added, and the oaken floor had been carpeted; so that the whole presented an odd mixture of parlor and hall.

The grate had been removed from the wide overwhelming fireplace, to make way for a fire of wood, in the midst of which was an enormous log glowing and blazing, and sending forth a vast volume of light and heat: this I understood was the Yule clog, which the squire was particular in having brought in and illumined on a Christmas eve, according to an ancient custom.* -

* The Yule clog is a great log of wood, sometimes the root of a tree, brought into the house with great ceremony, on Christmas eve, laid in the fireplace, and lighted with the brand of last year's clog. While it lasted, there was great drinking, singing, and telling of tales. Sometimes it was accompanied by Christmas candles; but in the cottages the only light was from the ruddy blaze of the great wood fire. The Yule clog was to burn all night; if it went out, it was considered a sign of ill luck.

Herrick mentions it in one of his songs:- -
-Come, bring with a noise,
My merrie, merrie boyes,
The Christmas log to the firing;
While my good dame, she
Bids ye all be free,
And drink to your hearts desiring

. -

The Yule clog is still burnt in many farmhouses and kitchens in England, particularly in the north, and there are several superstitions connected with it among the peasantry. If a squinting person come to the house while it is burning, or a person barefooted, it is considered an ill omen. The brand remaining from the Yule clog is carefully put away to light the next year's Christmas fire. -

It was really delightful to see the old squire seated in his hereditary elbow chair, by the hospitable fireside of his ancestors, and looking around him like the sun of a system, beaming warmth and gladness to every heart. Even the very dog that lay stretched at his feet, as he lazily shifted his position and yawned, would look fondly up in his master's face, wag his tail against the floor, and stretch himself again to sleep, confident of kindness and protection.

There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease. I had not been seated many minutes by the comfortable hearth of the worthy old cavalier, before I found myself as much at home as if I had been one of the family.

Washington Irving's Old Chirstmas, Part V: Christmas Eve

IT WAS a brilliant moonlight night, but extremely cold; our chaise whirled rapidly over the frozen ground; the postboy smacked his whip incessantly, and a part of the time his horses were on a gallop. "He knows where he is going," said my companion, laughing, "and is eager to arrive in time for some of the merriment and good cheer of the servants' hall.

My father, you must know, is a bigoted devotee of the old school, and prides himself upon keeping up something of old English hospitality. He is a tolerable specimen of what you will rarely meet with nowadays in its purity, the old English country gentleman; for our men of fortune spend so much of their time in town, and fashion is carried so much into the country, that the strong rich peculiarities of ancient rural life are almost polished away. My father, however, from early years, took honest Peacham* for his text-book, instead of Chesterfield; he determined in his own mind, that there was no condition more truly honorable and enviable than that of a country gentleman on his paternal lands, and therefore passes the whole of his time on his estate. He is a strenuous advocate for the revival of the old rural games and holiday observances, and is deeply read in the writers, ancient and modern, who have treated on the subject. Indeed his favorite range of reading is among the authors who flourished at least two centuries since; who, he insists, wrote and thought more like true Englishmen than any of their successors. He even regrets sometimes that he had not been born a few centuries earlier, when England was itself, and had its peculiar manners and customs.

As he lives at some distance from the main road, in rather a lonely part of the country, without any rival gentry near him, he has that most enviable of all blessings to an Englishman, an opportunity of indulging the bent of his own humor without molestation. Being representative of the oldest family in the neighborhood, and a great part of the peasantry being his tenants, he is much looked up to, and, in general, is known simply by the appellation of 'The Squire;' a title which has been accorded to the head of the family since time immemorial. I think it best to give you these hints about my worthy old father, to prepare you for any eccentricities that might otherwise appear absurd." -

* Peacham's complete Gentleman, 1622. -

We had passed for some time along the wall of a park, and at length the chaise stopped at the gate. It was in a heavy magnificent old style, of iron bars, fancifully wrought at top into flourishes and flowers. The huge square columns that supported the gate were surmounted by the family crest. Close adjoining was the porter's lodge, sheltered under dark fir-trees, and almost buried in shrubbery.

The postboy rang a large porter's bell, which resounded through the still frosty air, and was answered by the distant barking of dogs, with which the mansion-house seemed garrisoned. An old woman immediately appeared at the gate. As the moonlight fell strongly upon her, I had a full view of a little primitive dame, dressed very much in the antique taste, with a neat kerchief and stomacher, and her silver hair peeping from under a cap of snowy whiteness. She came courtesying forth, with many expressions of simple joy at seeing her young master. Her husband, it seemed, was up at the house keeping Christmas eve in the servants' hall; they could not do without him, as he was the best hand at a song and story in the household.

My friend proposed that we should alight and walk through the park to the hall, which was at no great distance, while the chaise should follow on. Our road wound through a noble avenue of trees, among the naked branches of which the moon glittered, as she rolled through the deep vault of a cloudless sky. The lawn beyond was sheeted with a slight covering of snow, which here and there sparkled as the moonbeams caught a frosty crystal; and at a distance might be seen a thin transparent vapor, stealing up from the low grounds and threatening gradually to shroud the landscape.

My companion looked around him with transport:- "How often," said he, "have I scampered up this avenue, on returning home on school vacations! How often have I played under these trees when a boy! I feel a degree of filial reverence for them, as we look up to those who have cherished us in childhood. My father was always scrupulous in exacting our holidays, and having us around him on family festivals. He used to direct and superintend our games with the strictness that some parents do the studies of their children. He was very particular that we should play the old English games according to their original form; and consulted old books for precedent and authority for every 'merrie disport;' yet I assure you there never was pedantry so delightful. It was the policy of the good old gentleman to make his children feel that home was the happiest place in the world; and I value this delicious home-feeling as one of the choicest gifts a parent could bestow."

We were interrupted by the clamor of a troop of dogs of all sorts and sizes, "mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound, and curs of low degree," that, disturbed by the ring of the porter's bell and the rattling of the chaise, came bounding, open-mouthed, across the lawn. -

"- The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart,
see, they bark at me!" -

cried Bracebridge, laughing. At the sound of his voice, the bark was changed into a yelp of delight, and in a moment he was surrounded and almost overpowered by the caresses of the faithful animals.

Ember Saturday in Advent

The Last penitential day in 2003, as I don't observe penitential Fridays during the 12 days of Christmas.

Today's Advent Reflection From the Franciscans

At AmericanCatholic.org.

Daily Advent Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1: 26-38

Although Ahaz was weak and worldly, he was the legitimate ruler of Judea. God sent Isaiah, the prophet, to warn him about making foreign alliances. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign from God. Under the pretense of a religious scruple, Ahaz refused to ask for a sign. Through the mouth of the prophet God himself gave him a sign, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

In spite of Ahaz’s pretense, God chose to reveal the depth of God’s desire to be one with us. The virgin would bear a son who will be the incarnation of God, “God with us.”

In the Gospel the promise spoken to Ahaz is fulfilled. Unlike Ahaz, when Mary asked the angel Gabriel, “How can this be done since I have no relations with a man?” she was not expressing her doubt of God’s messenger. She was simply asking how. When she understood the how she gave her consent. She accepted God’s design. And the Word was made flesh.

Today, let us pray for all members of our Precious Blood family that we, too, will avoid pretense, will surrender to God’s grace and accept God’s plan for us so that we might be bearers of God for our world.

Reflection by: Sister Catherine Wagner, C.PP.S. ( O’Fallon C.PP.S.)

O Clavis David

O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israël,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Key of David,
and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open, and no one shuts,
you shut, and no one opens:
come, and lead the prisoner
from jail,
seated in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christian Blogger Arrested In China

For unauthorized religious activity.

Washington Irving's Old Christmas, Part IV: The Stagecoach

I was roused from this fit of luxurious meditation, by a shout from my little travelling companions. They had been looking out of the coach windows for the last few miles, recognizing every tree and cottage as they approached home, and now there was a general burst of joy- "There's John! and there's old Carlo! and there's Bantam!" cried the happy little rogues, clapping their hands.

At the end of a lane there was an old sober-looking servant in livery, waiting for them; he was accompanied by a superannuated pointer, and by the redoubtable Bantam, a little old rat of a pony, with a shaggy mane and long rusty tail, who stood dozing quietly by the road-side, little dreaming of the bustling times that awaited him.

I was pleased to see the fondness with which the little fellows leaped about the steady old footman, and hugged the pointer; who wriggled his whole body for joy. But Bantam was the great object of interest; all wanted to mount at once, and it was with some difficulty that John arranged that they should ride by turns, and the eldest should ride first.

Off they set at last; one on the pony, with the dog bounding and barking before him, and the others holding John's hands; both talking at once, and overpowering him with questions about home, and with school anecdotes. I looked after them with a feeling in which I do not know whether pleasure or melancholy predominated; for I was reminded of those days when, like them, I had neither known care nor sorrow, and a holiday was the summit of earthly felicity. We stopped a few moments afterwards to water the horses, and on resuming our route, a turn of the road brought us in sight of a neat country seat. I could just distinguish the forms of a lady and two young girls in the portico, and I saw my little comrades, with Bantam, Carlo, and old John, trooping along the carriage road. I leaned out of the coach window, in hopes of witnessing the happy meeting, but a grove of trees shut it from my sight.

In the evening we reached a village where I had determined to pass the night. As we drove into the great gateway of the inn, I saw on one side the light of a rousing kitchen fire beaming through a window. I entered, and admired, for the hundredth time, that picture of convenience, neatness, and broad honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn. It was of spacious dimensions, hung round with copper and tin vessels highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green. Hams, tongues, and flitches of bacon, were suspended from the ceiling; a smoke-jack made its ceaseless clanking beside the fireplace, and a clock ticked in one corner. A well-scoured deal table extended along one side of the kitchen, with a cold round of beef, and other hearty viands upon it, over which two foaming tankards of ale seemed mounting guard. Travellers of inferior order were preparing to attack this stout repast, while others sat smoking and gossiping over their ale on two high-backed oaken settles beside the fire. Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards and forwards under the directions of a fresh, bustling landlady; but still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a flippant word, and have a rallying laugh, with the group round the fire. The scene completely realized Poor Robin's humble idea of the comforts of mid-winter: -

Now trees their leafy hats do bare
To reverence Winter's silver hair;
A handsome hostesss, merry host,
A pot of ale now and a toast,
Tobacco and a good coal fire,
Are things this season doth require.* -

* Poor Robin's Almanac, 1684. -

I had not been long at the inn when a post-chaise drove up to the door. A young gentleman stept out, and by the light of the lamps I caught a glimpse of a countenance which I thought I knew. I moved forward to get a nearer view, when his eye caught mine. I was not mistaken; it was Frank Bracebridge, a sprightly good-humored young fellow, with whom I had once travelled on the continent. Our meeting was extremely cordial, for the countenance of an old fellow-traveller always brings up the recollection of a thousand pleasant scenes, odd adventures, and excellent jokes. To discuss all these in a transient interview at an inn was impossible; and finding that I was not pressed for time, and was merely making a tour of observation, he insisted that I should give him a day or two at his father's country seat, to which he was going to pass the holidays, and which lay at a few miles distance. "It is better than eating a solitary Christmas dinner at an inn," said he, "and I can assure you of a hearty welcome in something of the old-fashioned style." His reasoning was cogent, and I must confess the preparation I had seen for universal festivity and social enjoyment had made me feel a little impatient of my loneliness. I closed, therefore, at once, with his invitation; the chaise drove up to the door, and in a few moments I was on my way to the family mansion of the Bracebridges.

Libros Deponendi

The Friday before Christmas is the most common day for the parochical and public schools to start Christmas vacation, and for the colleges to finish up the semester's exam schedule.

Omne bene
Sine poena
Tempus est ludendi.
Venit hora
Absque mora
Libros deponendi

An old school holiday song

So They Are Going To Shut Down North Station During the Dimocrat Convention

It is only the major commuter rail terminal for the city from the north, as well as a subway stop. That won't cause havoc, now, will it?

Christmas Recipes, Part 2

Are we all set with sweets, now? After the mince pie and fruitcake recipes, and the four cookie recipes of yesterday, I should think we would be good to go on that front. Today, our recipe topic is Christmas beverages.

Smoking Bishop
6 Clementines
1/2 C sugar
30 cloves
8 C moderately sweet red wine
1 bottle ruby port

Bake the oranges in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. Stick cloves into the oranges and then put them into a large bowl. Pour the wine over them and add the sugar. Cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and mix it with the wine. Add the port and heat the mixture in a pan. Do not boil. Serve hot.

Charles Dickens' descendant Cedric Dickens says that you should have at least one bald-headed gent in the crowd you serve this to. When the top of his head becomes read, you know the punch is a success. I have tried this and it works. Great for a tree-trimming party, or any Christmas occasion.
Adapted from Cedric Dickens, Dining With Dickens.

12 eggs separated
2 C sugar
2 C Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
6 C whipping cream
1/2 t salt
1 T vanilla extract
1 T cinnamon
1 T nutmeg
freshly grated nutmeg

Beat the egg yolks until thick. Reserve the egg whites. Slowly add the rum, maybe a 1/4 cup at a time. Mix in the cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Chill several hours. When ready to serve, whip the egg whites with the salt until they stand in stiff peaks. Fold in the egg yolk mixture. Top each serving with a generous grating of fresh nutmeg.

A must for late on Christmas Eve while the house is darkened, except for candlelight, the fireplace, and the tree and Christmas music is playing. Also good on Saint Stephen's Day, and still good on New Year's Eve, but make a fresh batch after that.
Adapted from An Old Fashioned Christmas by Karen Cure.

4 C (2 pints) Guinness
4 C fresh apple cider
2 C sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
20 cloves
1 C apple sauce

In a saucepan combine the cider, sugar, and spices. Stirring until the sugar dissolves, heat over medium heat. Strain out the whole spices, and return to saucepan. Add the apple sauce, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes stirring very frequently. Then add the Guinness, and heat thoroughly, but do not boil.

For Christmas Day and anytime you are having friends over between Christmas and Twelfth Night. "Wassail" means "Be well," in Old Anglo Saxon. Traditonally, this beverage was passed around in a large ceremonial cup or bowl from which each guest drank. It is sometimes called "Lamb's Wool" because of the apple sauce. Sometimes it is made with baked apples, but I have found the apple sauce easier. Of course, those who could not afford their own Wassail went about from house to house, sometimes with an empty bowl, offering songs and bits of impromptu plays in exchange for a drink. This is one of theose luck visits I talk about so much from Halloween until Twelfth Night, a New Year's custom.

A health to the King and Queene here.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle lamb's wool;
Add sugar nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale, too
and this ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger
Rober Herrick
Adapted from various sources.

Spiced Punch
4 C water
1 C sugar
20 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
32 oz. fresh apple cider
24 0z. purple grape juice (Welch's concentrate is OK)
1 C lemon juice

Bring the water, sugar, and spices to a boil stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Refrigerate. At serving time, combine apple cider, grape juice, and lemon juice with the strained spiced syrup.

You can serve this punch hot or cold. No alchohol, so this works for the kids and those avoiding intoxicating beverages.
From the 1979 and 1980Boston Globe Holiday Cooking and Cheer supplements.

A good host will also have on hand fresh apple cider, and dairy eggnog.

Washington Irving's Old Christmas, Part III: The Stagecoach

IN THE preceding paper I have made some general observations on the Christmas festivities of England, and am tempted to illustrate them by some anecdotes of a Christmas passed in the country; in perusing which I would most courteously invite my reader to lay aside the austerity of wisdom, and to put on that genuine holiday spirit which is tolerant of folly, and anxious only for amusement.

In the course of a December tour in Yorkshire, I rode for a long distance in one of the public coaches, on the day preceding Christmas. The coach was crowded, both inside and out, with passengers, who, by their talk, seemed principally bound to the mansions of relations or friends, to eat the Christmas dinner. It was loaded also with hampers of game, and baskets and boxes of delicacies; and hares hung dangling their long ears about the coachman's box, presents from distant friends for the impending feast. I had three fine rosy-cheeked boys for my fellow-passengers inside, full of the buxom health and manly spirit which I have observed in the children of this country. They were returning home for the holidays in high glee, and promising themselves a world of enjoyment. It was delightful to hear the gigantic plans of the little rogues, and the impracticable feats they were to perform during their six weeks' emancipation from the abhorred thraldom of book, birch, and pedagogue. They were full of anticipations of the meeting with the family and household, down to the very cat and dog; and of the joy they were to give their little sisters by the presents with which their pockets were crammed; but the meeting to which they seemed to look forward with the greatest impatience was with Bantam, which I found to be a pony, and, according to their talk, possessed of more virtues than any steed since the days of Bucephalus. How he could trot! how he could run! and then such leaps as he would take- there was not a hedge in the whole country that he could not clear.

They were under the particular guardianship of the coachman, to whom, whenever an opportunity presented, they addressed a host of questions, and pronounced him one of the best fellows in the world. Indeed, I could not but notice the more than ordinary air of bustle and importance of the coachman, who wore his hat a little on one side, and had a large bunch of Christmas greens stuck in the buttonhole of his coat. He is always a personage full of mighty care and business, but he is particularly so during this season, having so many commissions to execute in consequence of the great interchange of presents. And here, perhaps, it may not be unacceptable to my untravelled readers, to have a sketch that may serve as a general representation of this very numerous and important class of functionaries, who have a dress, a manner, a language, an air, peculiar to themselves, and prevalent throughout the fraternity; so that, wherever an English stage coachman may be seen, he cannot be mistaken for one of any other craft or mystery.

He has commonly a broad, full face, curiously mottled with red, as if the blood had been forced by hard feeding into every vessel of the skin; he is swelled into jolly dimensions by frequent potations of malt liquors, and his bulk is still further increased by a multiplicity of coats, in which he is buried like a cauliflower, the upper one reaching to his heels. He wears a broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat; a huge roll of colored handkerchief about his neck, knowingly knotted and tucked in at the bosom; and has in summer time a large bouquet of flowers in his button-hole; the present, most probably, of some enamored country lass. His waistcoat is commonly of some bright color, striped, and his small clothes extend far below the knees, to meet a pair of jockey boots which reach about half way up his legs.

All this costume is maintained with much precision; he has a pride in having his clothes of excellent materials; and, notwithstanding the seeming grossness of his appearance, there is still discernible that neatness and propriety of person, which is almost inherent in an Englishman. He enjoys great consequence and consideration along the road; has frequent conferences with the village housewives, who look upon him as a man of great trust and dependence; and he seems to have a good understanding with every bright-eyed country lass. The moment he arrives where the horses are to be changed, he throws down the reins with something of an air, and abandons the cattle to the care of the hostler; his duty being merely to drive from one stage to another. When off the box, his hands are thrust into the pockets of his great coat, and he rolls about the inn yard with an air of the most absolute lordliness. Here he is generally surrounded by an admiring throng of hostlers, stable-boys, shoeblacks, and those nameless hangers-on, that infest inns and taverns, and run errands, and do all kind of odd jobs, for the privilege of battening on the drippings of the kitchen and the leakage of the tap-room. These all look up to him as to an oracle; treasure up his cant phrases; echo his opinions about horses and other topics of jockey lore; and, above all, endeavor to imitate his air and carriage. Every ragamuffin that has a coat to his back, thrusts his hands in the pockets, rolls in his gait, talks slang, and is an embryo Coachey.

Perhaps it might be owing to the pleasing serenity that reigned in my own mind, that I fancied I saw cheerfulness in every countenance throughout the journey. A stage coach, however, carries animation always with it, and puts the world in motion as it whirls along. The horn, sounded at the entrance of a village, produces a general bustle. Some hasten forth to meet friends; some with bundles and band-boxes to secure places, and in the hurry of the moment can hardly take leave of the group that accompanies them. In the meantime, the coachman has a world of small commissions to execute. Sometimes he delivers a hare or pheasant; sometimes jerks a small parcel or newspaper to the door of a public house; and sometimes, with knowing leer and words of sly import, hands to some half-blushing, half-laughing housemaid an odd-shaped billet-doux from some rustic admirer. As the coach rattles through the village, every one runs to the window, and you have glances on every side of fresh country faces and blooming giggling girls. At the corners are assembled juntos of village idlers and wise men, who take their stations there for the important purpose of seeing company pass; but the sagest knot is generally at the blacksmith's, to whom the passing of the coach is an event fruitful of much speculation. The smith, with the horse's heel in his lap, pauses as the vehicle whirls by; the cyclops round the anvil suspend their ringing hammers, and suffer the iron to grow cool; and the sooty spectre, in brown paper cap, laboring at the bellows, leans on the handle for a moment, and permits the asthmatic engine to heave a long-drawn sigh, while he glares through the murky smoke and sulphureous gleams of the smithy.
Perhaps the impending holiday might have given a more than usual animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if everybody was in good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table, were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers', butchers' and fruiterers' shops were thronged with customers. The housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order; and the glossy branches of holly, with their bright-red berries, began to appear at the windows. The scene brought to mind an old writer's account of Christmas preparations:- "Now capons and hens, beside turkeys, geese, and ducks, with beef and mutton- must all die- for in twelve days a multitude of people will not be fed with a little. Now plums and spice, sugar and honey, square it among pies and broth. Now or never must music be in tune, for the youth must dance and sing to get them a heat, while the aged sit by the fire. The country maid leaves half her market, and must be sent again, if she forgets a pack of cards on Christmas eve. Great is the contention of holly and ivy, whether master or dame wears the breeches. Dice and cards benefit the butler; and if the cook do not lack wit, he will sweetly lick his fingers."

Washington Irving's Old Christmas, Part II: Christmas

One of the least pleasing effects of modern refinement is the havoc it has made among the hearty old holiday customs. It has completely taken off the sharp touchings and spirited reliefs of these embellishments of life, and has worn down society into a more smooth and polished, but certainly a less characteristic surface. Many of the games and ceremonials of Christmas have entirely disappeared, and, like the sherris sack of old Falstaff, are become matters of speculation and dispute among commentators. They flourished in times full of spirit and lustihood, when men enjoyed life roughly, but heartily and vigorously; times wild and picturesque, which have furnished poetry with its richest materials, and the drama with its most attractive variety of characters and manners. The world has become more worldly. There is more of dissipation, and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a broader, but a shallower stream; and has forsaken many of those deep and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of domestic life. Society has acquired a more enlightened and elegant tone; but it has lost many of its strong local peculiarities, its homebred feelings, its honest fireside delights. The traditionary customs of golden-hearted antiquity, its feudal hospitalities, and lordly wassailings, have passed away with the baronial castles and stately manor-houses in which they were celebrated. They comported with the shadowy hall, the great oaken gallery, and the tapestried parlor, but are unfitted to the light showy saloons and gay drawing-rooms of the modern villa.

Shorn, however, as it is, of its ancient and festive honors, Christmas is still a period of delightful excitement in England. It is gratifying to see that home feeling completely aroused which holds so powerful a place in every English bosom. The preparations making on every side for the social board that is again to unite friends and kindred; the presents of good cheer passing and repassing, those tokens of regard, and quickeners of kind feelings; the evergreens distributed about houses and churches, emblems of peace and gladness; all these have the most pleasing effect in producing fond associations, and kindling benevolent sympathies. Even the sound of the Waits, rude as may be their minstrelsy, breaks upon the midwatches of a winter night with the effect of perfect harmony. As I have been awakened by them in that still and solemn hour. "when deep sleep falleth upon man," I have listened with a hushed delight, and, connecting them with the sacred and joyous occasion, have almost fancied them into another celestial choir, announcing peace and good-will to mankind.

How delightfully the imagination, when wrought upon by these moral influences, turns every thing to melody and beauty! The very crowing of the cock, heard sometimes in the profound repose of the country, "telling the night watches to his feathery dames," was thought by the common people to announce the approach of this sacred festival. -

"Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome- then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time." -

Amidst the general call to happiness, the bustle of the spirits, and stir of the affections, which prevail at this period, what bosom can remain insensible? It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling- the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.

The scene of early love again rises green to memory beyond the sterile waste of years; and the idea of home, fraught with the fragrance of home-dwelling joys, reanimates the drooping spirit; as the Arabian breeze will sometimes waft the freshness of the distant fields to the weary pilgrim of the desert.

Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land- though for me no social hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold- yet I feel the influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy looks of those around me. Surely happiness is reflective, like the light of heaven; and every countenance, bright with smiles, and glowing with innocent enjoyment, is a mirror transmitting to others the rays of a supreme and ever-shining benevolence. He who can turn churlishly away from contemplating the felicity of his fellow-beings, and can sit down darkling and repining in his loneliness when all around is joyful, may have his moments of strong excitement and selfish gratification, but he wants the genial and social sympathies which constitute the charm of a merry Christmas. -

Friday In Advent's Ember Week

A penitential day, though many office parties are undoubtably scheduled for tonight.

Today's Advent Reflection From Father Keyes

Readings: Judges 13:2-7,24-25; Luke 1:5-25

"So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others." (Luke 1:25)

In the season of Advent, we are promised that life can come from barrenness. Often this promise challenges our capacity to believe. Our lives can sometimes seem barren, barren of love, barren of intimacy, barren of work and creativity, barren of hope or options or dreams. How is life to appear when we feel so lifeless? Advent’s vision is that life appears in the midst of our doubts and anxieties in unexpected times and places. The challenge for us who wait patiently is to be open to the possibilities when they are introduced or announced. We are challenged to be open to the movement of God’s Spirit especially in those times when we experience life as empty.

Barrenness, powerlessness, absence, or lack is often experienced as evidence of God’s disfavor. We can be tempted to believe that God has abandoned us. The Blood of Christ shed on the cross is that sign and pledge that God identifies with us in our defeats and our brokenness. Zechariah and Elizabeth were able to rejoice in the dawn of God’s promise in their time of waiting and expectation. The Promise may not be fully realized in our experience either, yet we are challenged by the doubt and faith of our ancestors to wait in hope for the fullness of the promised gift.

What are my deepest hopes and desires?

Where has God spoken to me in my brokenness?

Where can I be a sign or pledge of hope to others today?

Reflection by: Rev. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. (Province of the Pacific)

Today's Advent Reflection From the Franciscans

From AmericanCatholic.org.

O Radix Jesse

O Radix Jesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos,
jam noli tardare

O Root of Jesse,
who stands as a sign for the people,
kings stand silent in your presence,
whom the nations will worship:
come to set us free,
put it off no longer.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Washington Irving's Old Christmas, Part I

I just wish that I could link to a version with all of Randolph Caldecott's excellent illustrations. Without further ado, Mr Washington Irving:

There is nothing in England that exercises a more delightful spell
over my imagination than the lingerings of the holiday customs and
rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy
used to draw in the May morning of life, when as yet I only knew
the world through books, and believed it to be all that poets had
painted it; and they bring with them the flavour of those honest
days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal fallacy, I am apt to
think the world was more home-bred, social, and joyous than at
present. I regret to say that they are daily growing more and more
faint, being gradually worn away by time, but still more
obliterated by modern fashion. They resemble those picturesque
morsels of Gothic architecture which we see crumbling in various
parts of the country, partly dilapidated by the waste of ages, and
partly lost in the additions and alterations of latter days.
Poetry, however, clings with cherishing fondness about the rural
game and holiday revel, from which it has derived so many of its
themes,--as the ivy winds its rich foliage about the Gothic arch
and mouldering tower, gratefully repaying their support by clasping
together their tottering remains, and, as it were, embalming them
in verdure.

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the
strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of
solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and
lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment.
The services of the church about this season are extremely tender
and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of
our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its
announcement. They gradually increase in fervour and pathos during
the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the
morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a
grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full
choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a
cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant

It is a beautiful arrangement, also derived from days of yore, that
this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion
of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together
of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of
kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the
world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the
children of a family who have launched forth in life, and wandered
widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth,
that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and
loving again among the endearing mementoes of childhood.

There is something in the very season of the year that gives a
charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a
great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature.
Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny
landscape, and we "live abroad and everywhere." The song of the
bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring,
the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn; earth
with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with its deep
delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence, all fill us with mute
but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere
sensation. But in the depth of winter, when nature lies despoiled
of every charm, and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn
for our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and
desolation of the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome
nights, while they circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our
feelings also from rambling abroad, and make us more keenly
disposed for the pleasures of the social circle. Our thoughts are
more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more aroused. we feel
more sensibly the charm of each other's society, and are brought
more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment.
Heart calleth unto heart; and we draw our pleasures from the deep
wells of living kindness, which lie in the quiet recesses of our
bosoms: and which when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element
of domestic felicity.

The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the
room filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The
ruddy blaze diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the
room, and lights up each countenance into a kindlier welcome.
Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and
more cordial smile--where is the shy glance of love more sweetly
eloquent--than by the winter fireside? and as the hollow blast of
wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps the distant door,
whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the chimney, what can
be more grateful than that feeling of sober and sheltered security
with which we look around upon the comfortable chamber and the
scene of domestic hilarity?

The English, from the great prevalence of rural habits throughout
every class of society, have always been fond of those festivals
and holidays which agreeably interrupt the stillness of country
life; and they were, in former days, particularly observant of the
religious and social rites of Christmas. It is inspiring to read
even the dry details which some antiquarians have given of the
quaint humours, the burlesque pageants, the complete abandonment to
mirth and good-fellowship with which this festival was celebrated.
It seemed to throw open every door, and unlock every heart. It
brought the peasant and the peer together, and blended all ranks in
one warm generous flow of joy and kindness. The old halls of
castles and manor-houses resounded with the harp and the Christmas
carol, and their ample boards groaned under the weight of
hospitality. Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season
with green decorations of bay and holly--the cheerful fire glanced
its rays through the lattice, inviting the passenger to raise the
latch, and join the gossip knot huddled around the hearth,
beguiling the long evening with legendary jokes and oft-told
Christmas tales.

Christmas Recipes, Part One

I've already given you my recipes for fruitcake and mince pie. Now for some Christmas cookies. This is the time to be baking cookies, if ever there was one. I have made several over the last 20 years that most people like. Buy lots of airtight tins, stock up on butter and sugar, and prepare to enjoy. Nothing says "Christmas" like these cookies baking.

Honey Cookies
1C butter
1C sugar
2 eggs
2 C honey
2/3 C water
7 C flour
4 t baking soda
3 t cream of tartar
1 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 t nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, honey, & water. Add flour to baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, & spices. Add the dry mix to the creamed mix. Blend thoroughly and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut to desired shapes. place on ungreased cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees until cookies are lightly browned. Makes 4-5 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cutters you use.
From Yuletide at Winterthur.

22/3 C sugar
4 C butter
8 eggs
4 T vanilla extract
4 T cinnamon
4 t nutmeg
51/3 C flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and mix completely. Blend spices with flour and add to the creamed mixture. Drop from a teaspoon 2 inches apart on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges are golden brown (about 10 minutes, but watch them carefully). Makes 16 dozen small cookies, but the recipe can be easily halved or quartered.
From Yuletide At Winterthur

Springerle Cookies
8 eggs
4 C sugar
8 T anise seed
8 C flour
2 t baking soda
Beat eggs until light, gradually adding sugar and continue beating 15-20 minutes or until batter is thick and lemon-colored. Add anise seed. Combine flur and soda and add to the egg mixture. Blend. Cover the bowl and let stand 15 minutes. Divide the dough into thrids. On a lightly floured surface, roll each section of dough out to an 8-inch square 1/4 inch thick. Let rest 1 minute. Flour your cookie cutters, and press your designs into the dough, cut, and place each cookie on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a towel overnight. Grease cookie sheets, and flour them lightly, brushing off the excess. Align cookies 1/2 inch apart on the sheets (they don't spread). Bake 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees, but do not let the cookies brown. Makes 12 dozen. the recipe can be easily halved. Store in an airtight container. if the cookies become hard, place a slice of apple in the airtight container with them to soften them.
From the Greenfield Village Cookbook

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwiches
2 packages intact Nabisco chocolate wafers
1 tub of vanilla frosting
1/2 t peppermint extract
4 candy canes
1 hammer

Put the candy canes in a sturdy plastic bag and take your aggressions out on them with the hammer until they are very tiny pieces or dust. Mix their remains, the peppermint extract, and the vanilla frosting. Spread this mix on chocolate wafers, and place a second wafer over each, making a sandwich. These don't keep long, so use them almost immediately. You may have to buy more than 2 boxes of the Nabisco wafers to get enough intact ones, they break very easily. The ones that break while the sandwiches are being made are for immediate consumption, of course.
I found this idea about 3 years ago in a magazine, but don't remember which one.

Ways To Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas

I don't know about you, but I find it depressing when the Christmas music stops and folks start tossing the Christmas trees on the curb on December 26th. Agreed, some of these people are about to take off for Florida for the rest of the winter, and so have to get rid of the tree before they do. But we as Catholics ought to make more of the Twelve Days, and make our joy at the Nativity and the related events of the early life of the Lord last through Epiphany.

Here are some practical suggestions for keeping the spirit of Christmas active in your home throughout the season.

Make every evening meal during the Christmas period special, even if it is leftovers. The leftovers from Christmas Dinner can be served in some style, and with a little more than the ordinary degree of pomp. Continue to use the Christmas china, if you have a set (pick a pattern with holly and ivy and red bows, rather than a Santa Claus pattern, which is useless on December 26th). Christmas foods are special foods, and there is always more than can be consumed in a single meal. Turkey, ham, roast beef, pork roast (whatever you have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) can be refrigerated or frozen, and served again during the festival. Mince pie, plum pudding, and fruitcake keep well. Eggnog will keep for up to a week. More red wine than you needed for dinner, mull the letovers and drink it over the days of Christmas. Christmas punch can last much longer. Plan more special meals for the special days: Christmas Eve and Day, St. Stephen's Day, St. John's Day, the Holy Innocents, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Twelfth Night, and Epiphany.

Stay home on the more important evenings of Christmas and make the days family time. Reigning in the teenagers can be hard. But if you give them a reason, they might stay home and invite their friends. Play games. There are plenty of board and card games that are great fun, depending on the size of the family. Phase Ten and Uno are great games for small groups. Then there are parlor games, like Yes and No and the Minister's Cat, which are great for small children or tolerant adults. Charades, Musical Chairs, and many other pasttimes can make the evening fun. If you must watch something, try comedies. The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan is a lot of fun.

Get the family out to something like a magic show, or a family-friendly farce on at least one of the nights of Christmas. Maybe a local company is doing a production of The Tempest or Twelfth Night, or A Man For All Seasons. Then there are often movies like The Return of the King that are out at Christmas.

Light candles every night during Christmas. The Advent Wreath can be tucked away, but other candles help to give the house a homey feeling. What are really great are the scented candles in jars. Sometimes, the most expensive brand does not give the best scent. Shop around.

Use Christmas potpourri in the house throughout the holidays. Even if it is just cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in water simmering on the stove, such scents can really make the house feel like the holidays. Then there are the bags of potpourri to be left in bowls about the house. Some of these are really nice, some less so. Generally, you get what you pay for. burg shop in Salem last year for $12, and it was terrific, much better than what you pay $5 for at Christmas Tree Shops.

Attend Mass frequently during the holidays. If the kids are home, troop them along for daily Mass if you can. Even if you can't make Mass, just stop by a Church that is open and make a Eucharistic visit. Certainly make sure the family attends together on the Sundays and important feast days.

Put some money aside to spend during the Twelve Days. This is an idea I have advanced before, the Twelve Hundred Dollars of Christmas. On each of the 12 days after Christmas, allot $100 (or $10 if you are strapped) to spend on some category of product. On Saint Stephen's Day, you can pick up nativity sets, wrapping paper, cards, tags, bows, candles, hard candies that will keep, lights, ornaments, etc. on deep discounts (50% off is common). A hundred dollars spent on December 26th for next year is often a good investment. Then spend $100 on books on another day. Some other day, spend $100 at the local Catholic goods store. Another day, give $100 to the local food pantry. You get the idea. It is a little materialistic, or can be, depending on how you spend it. But it does keep off the post-Christmas Blues.

Keep the decorations up. OK the tree looks dorky after mid-January. Use Plough Monday, the Monday after the Twelfth Day, as the day for taking down the decorations. And decorate with a lavish hand. Christmas is no time for restraint. Put interlaced garlands of holly and ivy around every doorway. Use plenty of mistletoe. Use pine garlands. Doesn't matter if they are silk. If fact, silk is much better, as it can be kept up longer. Collect an elaborate Nativity set over several years, like those sold by Fontanini. Even better, have some kind of Nativity set in every room of the house. And leave it all in place until Epiphany (real Epiphany, not liturgical Epiphany, moved to the closest Sunday for convenience) is past.

Play Christmas music throughout. Santa songs are passe after December 24th. But build a collection of Christmas music that is less secular. The Church continues to use carols until Epiphany. Why not us, too? The Boston Camerata has several albums to pick from. Ditto the Revels (links on the side). Then thee are albums of Christmas chants and motets. And there is Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and Handel's Messiah. Want to know a secret? Jingle Bells is my least favorite Christmas song. I find it refreshing, after December 25th, to listen to albums of Christmas music that do not contain any references to sleighs, Santa, and reindeer.

"It Is As It Was"

The Holy Father has seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and gave it the above endorsement. I know of nothing finer he could have said about the film.

I really want to see this film this Ash Wednesday. It is not often that one looks forward to Ash Wednesday, but this year, it is the case.

A Franciscan Advent Reflection For Today

From AmericanCatholic.org.

Today's Advent Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Jeremiah 23: 5-8; Matthew 1: 18-24

Lord, it’s hard to wait on promises to be fulfilled. Like waiting for a friend to lend their copy of the latest best-selling novel, or a colleague to provide crucial materials for completing a project with an impending deadline or countries working toward just and peaceful solutions to conflict. How did Israel ever sustain that sense of expectation over all those years without succumbing to despair or just finally ignoring the whole thing? It seems there was always a faithful remnant that held fast to the promise in the face of all odds. Even today in the explosive situation of the Middle East, Jewish people believe that the country itself is the fulfillment of the promise in today’s reading from Jeremiah.

In Your Incarnation I believe that all the prophetic promises of the Hebrew Scriptures are fulfilled, and I believe that You, as Emmanuel, have both come and remain with us. When Mary and Joseph took the leap of faith to believe in visions and dreams, they followed in the footsteps of their great tradition, one that often went against overwhelming evidence to the contrary to discover the promise being fulfilled in unexpected and surprising ways. The promised king who would rule wisely and with justice and would save Israel would start out in unremarkable surroundings, of unknown parents, in a town where nothing great was ever really expected of its inhabitants. And You reign over a kingdom of divine, not human, boundaries.

Lord, how do I today, keep on believing in the promise of Your Incarnation, in the memorial of bread and wine, Your Body and Blood? So much is not yet accomplished; the coming of Your Kingdom seems interminably delayed. Yet with belief that the Blood You shed for all of us was not shed in vain, it is possible to hope that the world can be governed wisely and with justice and that I can act today, in my small arena of influence, with that same unshakable determination out of which You were finally born into history.

Reflection by: Sr. Joyce Lehman, C.PP.S. (Dayton C.PP.S.)

O Adonai

O Adonai,
et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Mighty Lord,
and leader of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush,
and on Sinai gave him the law,
come to redeem us with outstretched arm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Ember Wednesday

This is the Ember Wednesday in Advent. It wouldn't be inappropriate to take a little time out today in reflective prayer, and go light on the pre-christmas partying for one night (and Friday and Saturday of this week).

Veni, Veni

Here we are, almost at the end of Advent, and I hadn't posted this yet. I really should have offered it on Gaudete Sunday, for which it is perfect.

Veni, veni Emanuel: captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio, privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! gaude! Emanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, O Jesse Virgula; ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari, educ, et antro barathri.

Gaude! gaude! Emanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, veni, O Oriens; solare nos adveniens;
Noctis depelle nebulas, dirasque noctis tenebras.

Gaude! gaude! Emanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, Clavis Davidica; Regna reclude celica;
Fac iter tutum superum, et claude vias inferum.

Gaude! gaude! Emanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, veni, Adonaï, Qui populo in Sinaï
Legem dedisti vertice in maiestate glorie.

Gaude! gaude! Emanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

The Return of the King Opens Today

Much hoopla and excitement. If possible, this is one that I will want to see. I greatly like the first two parts.

Boston Area Will Lose 50-60 Parishes

And the parish closings will happen quickly, all within the next year, according to those who attended Archbishop Sean's meeting with area priests. That will probably leave the Archdiocese with just under 300 parishes. There were 402 not so long ago. There are some 357 now.

This is O'Malley's trademark, so we should not be surprised.: rapid parish closings and pervert priest litigation settlements followed by a period of healing is what he did in Fall River. But this is on a much bigger scale.

Regrettably, it looks as if a decent amount of church-owned property will soon be on the market. Lots of memories will go along with these parishes. Also, a lot of parishioners will be turned off to the Church by the process, and will just stop going to church, rather than shift to the nearest parish. I don't think that benefits anybody.

And the Winner Is...Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan at Irish Elk takes on Cardinal Martino's ridiculous statements regarding the capture of Saddam Hussein, and puts the prelate in his place.

Daily Advent Reflection From the Franciscans

From AmericanCatholic.org.

Today's Advent Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Genesis 49: 2, 8-10; Matthew 1: 1-17

St. Gaspar encouraged his followers to be “a mystic in your room.” “The basic truth of asceticism,” Kathleen Norris writes in Dakota, “is that it is . . . a radical way of knowing exactly who, what, and where you are, in defiance of those powerful forces in society - alcohol, drugs, television, shopping malls, motels - that aim to make us forget.”

Forget what? During this Gaudete week when our liturgical journey of Advent embraces joy, we may have forgotten that self knowledge is the first step in the spiritual journey. Norris would want you “not only to know where you are, but to learn to live what you find there.”

I heard a PhD, who is an associate, describe contemplative prayer as prayer that comes from the deep concerns of your life - those moments when you attempt to live what you find, what comes to you. On your knees you beg God’s purposes become known. Not my will, but Thine is the prayer of the mystic, the ascetic, the prayer that leads to transformation.

Ah, transformation! Is that what the secular side of this season has had us forget? Ephemeral joy and excitement offer Precious Blood People occasion to contemplate the true joy of love for others in the words of Gaspar: “I wish to give my life in order to diffuse more love for the Blood of Jesus in the world.” The depth of joy in this call for transformation is offered in the words of Pope John Paul II: “The Precious Blood of Jesus speaks to us of the greatest joy of all: knowing that we are loved by God!”

As Precious Blood People the call of this week of Advent is for the contemplation of true joy.

Do the Holy Father’s words speak to me?

Am I constricted by the shallow secular concerns of this holy season?

Reflection by: Rev. Denny Kinderman, C.PP.S. (Cincinnati Province)

O Sapientia

Christmas is almost here. The O antiphons begin today.

O Sapientia,
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom,
who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching out mightily from end to end,
and sweetly arranging all things:
come to teach us the way of peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Flu Outbreak To Alter Liturgical Practices

From SpiritDaily.com:

The Bishop of San Jose, California, has issued a statement implementing temporary changes in Eucharistic celebration due to the flu epidemic. Because the strain this year is especially transmissible, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath is suspending the offering of Communion under both Species and has ordered Communion distributed only on the hands. He has also asked that the Sign of Peace be adapted so that it "does not involve shaking hands or touching." He has requested that congregants refrain from holding hands during the Lord's Prayer, and has directed all who administer the sacrament to wash their hands with an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution. "While I realize that these measures are drastic, I have been assured by public health officials that they are necessary so that we can do our part to foster health," said the bishop, who took the action after he was approached by members of the medical community.

Well, I regret that receiving on the tongue has been suspended in that diocese. But you know I never cared for receiving under both Species, or the Sign of Peace. And washing with good strong soap is always a good idea.

In Our Prayers

Catholic Light's Richard Chonak's mother died yesterday during surgery.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

And I just read that Mark Shea's mother-in-law has had a serious setback, and may require a nursing home. I've been through that all too recently. I understand what Mark is going through. And I pray for Mark, his mother and father-in-law, and the whole family.

The Battle of the Bulge

On this date in 1944, the German counteroffensive known as the Battle of the Bulge began. The Allies had pushed Hitler's armies almost tot he borders of Germany (and in a few cases, over them) in the fall of 1944. But Hitler was determined on one last gambler's toss of the dice. He carefully husbanded reserves of tanks, men, artillery, ammunition, and fuel throughout the fall, and planned to use them in a massive strike at a weak point in the Allied line, almost at the boundary between the American and British zones of responsibility, hopefully at a time when low clouds and fog would ground the predominate Allied air forces. The strategic objective was Antwerp, the capture of which would cleave the Western Allies' front in two.

And despite the fact that the Allies had broken the main German codes, Hitler managed to achieve strategic surprise. A feeling that the Wehrmacht had no fight left in it predominated. The bloody battle of the Hurtgen Forest was winding down. All planned on a quiet Christmas, and then a triumphal march into Germany, Hitler's rapid trial and execution, and the end of the war. In fact, on the day after Christmas, Patton was to begin a major winter offensive in the Saar.

Two Panzer Armies hit the US First Army line in the Belgian Ardennes early in the morning of the 16th. Despite tactical and strategic surprise, the Germans often failed to overcome American resistance quickly enough to do what they planned. The only Allied reserves immediately available were the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, both behind the lines resting and refitting after involvement int he fall fighting in Holland.

The 101st was sent to hold the strategic crossroads of Bastonge. The 82nd stiffened the First Army's northern front. Meanwhile, Patton's staff prepared to change the direction of his planned offensive, and instead of driving east intothe Saar, changed their axis of attack and began to drive north, against fierce German resistance, into the southern flank of the German penetration. Meanwhile the 101st at Bastonge held out against everything the Germans threw at it, as depicted in the miniseries Band of Brothers, and the old black and white movie Battleground.

The German offensive ran out of steam just before Christmas. An American armored division, with air support, fought and defeated the elements of the 2nd Panzer Division that had made the most dangerous advance, almost to the River Meuse at Celles. Patton broke through to Bastonge very close to Christmas Day. And the skies cleared enough to allow American and British air superiority to again dominate the battlefield.

The fighting to close off the bulge-like salient that the German's had made in the American lines took over a month. It was long and bloody. Already the American Army was hard-pressed for combat infantry replacements. Emergency-type actions like arming cooks and clerks and throwing them in the front line had to be resorted to. The Germans did things like that time and again during the war, and it worked better for them, probably because they spent more time and effort making sure that even their cooks and clerks really knew how to fight.

The emergency pushed my father, serving as base security at one of the New Mexico Army Air Force sites associated with the Manhattan Project, into the fighting in Europe. By February, he was in transit on a liberty ship to be assigned to the 69th Division, First Army for the fighting in March and April, 1945, as a combat infantry replacement.

"This Meeting Can Do Nothing More To Save The Country."

This was Samuel Adams' cue to the "Mohawks" to head down from the town meeting at Old South Meeting House to the wharfs to board the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver to dump their cargoes of tea overboard. That happened on December 16, 1773.

The Boston Tea Party was a complicated event and the direct cause for the repressive British acts that lead to the war. One of the key figures in organizing the tea party was Paul Revere, who also participated in it. He was on just about every important committee and organization in Boston at the time, knew everyone high and low, and was a fellow people respected and followed. David Hackett Fisher in Paul Revere's Ride has laid out in an appendix how involved Revere was in the network of Boston's revolutionary underground.

Of course, the Tea Party lead to the "Intolerable Acts" and the quartering of a significant armed force in Boston. But before the Tea Party, before the crisis over the tiny duty on tea, relations between Britain and her American colonies had seemed to have stabilized for some time. The Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre were in the past. Anti-government fervor had cooled. One might have been justified in thinking that the crisis had past and that normality was being restored.

But the imitations of the Tea Party throughout the colonies, and the angry reaction to it on the other side of the Atlantic proved that the crisis had not yet been played out. Sixteen months later, blood would be shed at Lexington and Concord. And the new nation would get its start.

Sharing This Day As A Birthday

The great English novelist Jane Austen was born on this date in 1775. What would English letters be like without Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion? What would A&E and the BBC have done in the 1990s without them?

Austen wrote fine works that tell us a great deal about how people in the lower gentry lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. People who dismiss her as a writer for women, merely because she wrote from a woman's perspective, need to re-think her. As an historian, I can testify that I have picked up a great deal of helpful detail from her. If you have been meaning to start one of her novels, today would be a good day for it.

The Essex Junto's George Cabot

On this date in 1751, US Senator George Cabot was born in Salem. He abandoned Harvard and went to sea at an early age. Cabot became a prominent Beverly merchant, and a staunch Federalist.

He profited greatly in the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the Massachusetts legislature and the Massachusetts convention that ratified the US Constitution. He was a driving force in the construction of the first Beverly-Salem bridge, which made Beverly's trade with Boston much easier. He served a term in the US Senate, and was offered by President John Adams (and turned down) the job of being the first Secretary of the Navy. He was a sounding board for his friend Alexander Hamilton's ideas on political economy. He was also on very good terms with George Washington. Abigail Adams' letters praise him frequently.

He preferred his business interests and being one of the guiding forces behind the so-called "Essex Junto," not really a secret society at all (unless it was a very well-kept secret) but just a reflection of the fact that there was a great deal of prominent and conservative Federalist talent situated in Essex County between 1785 and 1815 (specifically in Salem).

Aside from Cabot, some men reputed to be members at various times were Fisher Ames (of Dedham), Benjamin Goodhue, Elias Haskett Derby, Timothy Pickering, and Nathaniel Bowditch (all of Salem), and Harrison Gray Otis (of Boston). Cabot capped his career by presiding over the Hartford Convention, which has been unjustly vilified by pro-Jeffersonian historians for generations. He died in 1823.

The Precious Blood Leadership Conference Advent Reflection For Today

Readings: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Matthew 21:28-32

But I will leave as a remnant in your midst…a people humble and lowly… who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord. Zephaniah 3:12

Responding to our call to adoration, we become a joyous witness to God’s compassionate love and a sign of hope…we will experience the living God constantly active in and through our service among others. Constitution of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, p. 26

Destruction loomed all around Zephaniah’s people, much as destruction permeates our world within and without. Where is God in all these things? Without seeing much evidence at times of goodness or hope, we experience waiting in the dark to receive the promise. What is the promise? God will act in our behalf to deliver us. How? In our prayer and prayer-inspired actions. God will not abandon us; he will not be silent or hidden forever. Our constitution assures us that as we respond to our God’s call, God will respond to our cry! We may see destruction but we will not experience annihilation. We find “refuge in the name of the Lord” by means of prayer.

What am I afraid of? Where is destruction in my life? Do I behave as if I depend on God’s promise to save me? Do I know I will not be annihilated? Have I shared my concerns with my God? Journal your dialogue with God.

Reflection by: Trish McConnell, ASC Novice (American Province)

The Franciscans' Daily Advent Reflection

From AmericanCatholic.org.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Credit For Saddam's Capture...

Goes to the members of the 4th Infantry Division and US Special Forces.

And it occurs to me that important feats of arms like this one deserve special rewards. The Romans used to award lands and slaves to victorious generals. The British not only adance successful generals through the peerage, but also have a history of providing pensions and estates. Think Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough and his descendants.

Why should we honor those who took part in planning and executing such an important operation as the capture of one of the 20th Century's bloodiest dictators (probably 9th-15th on the list) with a ribbon, a handshake, and a miserly pension check doled out from the Treasury with the greatest reluctance. We should encourage those who have served us particularly well.

Here is another of my modest proposals. How about granting each member of the capture team, and those who planned it and helped carry it out, officers as well as enlisted, a nice house made exempt by Act of Congress from ever being seized or foreclosed on for failure to pay local property taxes, or mortgages, or utility bills? How about granting every member $50,000 a year for life on top of whatever pensions they would normally be entitled to? How about handing every man or woman involved in this a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Managed Major Medical Card for their family (including those not even born yet) for life? It is much better coverage and care than the Veterans' Hospitals provide.

I think we ought to honor our heroes better than we do. And I think the honor ought to be granted fairly democratically, so that not just officers profit. We are a generous and prosperous nation. We can afford to be very generous with those who have served us very well. I agree with what Jack Kemp used to say, "when you tax something, you get less of it. When you subsidize something, you get more of it." Why not subsidize military valour better than we are doing now?

And An Advent Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17a; Matthew 21: 23-27

Today's gospel speaks about authority. This is a common theme in our life: Who is in charge here? In looking back at difficulties within the Church, I find that many of them have authority and power issues as their root cause. People are always wanting to be in charge and to be in charge of others. Yet in the gospel we find that all proper authority comes from God, not from our title, station in life or office. This is not an easy lesson to learn.

God is the one in charge of our earth and our life, not us. Oh yes, God gave us power to name the animals etc, but the ultimate power to govern, to decide the course of history and to command others comes not from us but from God.

People are often accepting of authority when it suits them or when they agree with what is happening. They disagree with it when it goes against them. They find authority unacceptable when it does not go their way. The recent replacement of governors in California is an example.

We pray that we can see the Lord Jesus as the source of our authority, and that what small authority we have here we see as sharing the authority of God. Amen.

Reflection by: Rev. James Urbanic, C.PP.S. (Kansas City Province)

The Franciscans' Daily Advent Reflection

From AmericanCatholic.org.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Favorite Christmas Tunes

So far this Advent, I have offered for your amusement lists of my 10 favorite Christmas CDs, my 10 favorite Christmas readings, and my 10 favorite Christmas movies. Next up:

My 20 Favorite Christmas Songs, in no particular order:

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Christmas In Carrick
The Holly and the Ivy
I Saw Three Ships
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Wassail Song
Adeste Fideles
Good King Wenceslas
The Boar's Head Carol
Deck the Halls
The Wren Boys' Song
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
Once In Royal David's City
The Coventry Carol
The Gloucestershire Wassail
Ding Dong Merrily On High
Joy To the World
What Child is This?
Silent Night
The Wexford Carol

Earning Honorable Mention, because it is so darned funny, is Frank Kelly's (Father Ted) Christmas Countdown, an hilarious account of what would happen if someone started sending her true love all the things listed in the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is available on Kelly's Comedy CountdownCD (it is by far the best track on the album). Irish goods shops sometimes stock that CD. Sorry I can't be of more help in locating it.

Update: Well Amazon offers Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown used only. There is a sample you can listen to here, if you scroll down.

Christmas in Carrick

Performed by the Clancy Brothers on their Clancy Brothers Christmas CD

On the road the frost is glistening.
People stream from Midnight Mass.
Friendly candles glow in windows.
Strangers greet you as you pass.
Home then to the laden table;
Ham and goose and pints of beer,
Whisky handed 'round in tumblers,
Christmas comes but once a year!

Puddings made with eggs and treacle,
Seeded raisins and ground suet,
Sated breadcrumbs and mixed spices,
Grated rind and plenty fruit,
Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg,
Porter, brandy, and old ale.
Don't forget the wine and whisky!
Christmas comes but once a year!

Women fussing in the kitchen,
Lay the food on every plate.
Men impatient in the hallway,
Guinness and porter while we wait.
Who cares if we work tomorrow?
Now's the time to spread good cheer!
Pass the punch around the table!
Christmas comes but once a year!

Christmas Treasures

Holy Trinity church in Boston is blessed with the services of a wonderful octet which sings at many of its Masses. This group, Preces Cantatae, has a new CD for sale. Christmas Treasures combines Latin, German, and English, just as do the liturgies of Holy Trinity parish.

This CD offers the following selections:

O Jesulein Suss
Ave Maria
O Sanctissima
Veni, Veni Emanuel
O Come Divine Messiah
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Es Ist Ein Roess Entsprungen
O Magnum Mysterium
Puer Nobis Nascitur/Puer Natus In Bethlehem
Stille Nacht/Silent Night
Sleep Holy Babe
Resonet In Laudibus
Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light
Tollite Hostias
The First Noel
In the Bleak Midwinter
In Dulci Jubilo

The CD costs $15 including shipping. You can order it by mail from:

Preces Cantatae, Inc.
C/O D. Fresolo
12 Columbus Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Further information about the CD can be obtained from anthony Palladino, one of the groups basses, at:


This CD will ship in 5 days from receipt of your order. If you are in a hurry, come if you can to next Sunday's noon Latin Mass at Holy Trinity (140 Shawmut Avenue, Boston), and buy a copy in person downstairs after Mass during coffee hour (saving on the shipping, enjoying a Latin High Mass, and saving Preces Cantatae some paperwork).

These CDs make great Christmas presents, and are still appropriate throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.

And Today's Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

How are we to prepare for the Messiah? John the Baptist preached the good news and called people to repentance. Still, the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers each asked in turn, “What should we do?” John challenged them to share possessions and food, to treat people fairly, to be satisfied with what each one had.

During Advent we delight in looking forward to Christmas because it is such a happy event. Is Christmas our favorite day among all the Church’s celebrations? Possibly it is, and yet there is a day which is even more important. That day is Easter.

While keeping, and even enhancing, all the wonderful feelings we have about Christmas, we should try to appreciate the connection between what we celebrate at Christmas and what we celebrate at Easter. There was a Christmas only so that there could be an Easter. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. He helped people to see that the Messiah was present among them. But there was more. Luke throughout his Gospel shows Jesus, the Messiah, in a relentless journey to Jerusalem, the city where he would die and be raised from the dead. The birth of Jesus led to the Paschal Mystery of his death, burial, and resurrection.

This Advent idea of preparation is out of step with our consumerist culture; we are told we need more, more and more! When we look around – in the media, in our shopping malls, and sometimes in our own hearts – we believe that what we have is not nearly enough. We’re told that buying more is good for the economy, and perhaps it is. We’re told that buying gifts shows how much we care for others, and maybe it does. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.

In Luke’s Gospel: John the Baptist points to the One who is coming, the Messiah who fulfills our needs and brings to an end our Advent waiting. John exhorts us to be ready to receive the Messiah by standing in right relationship with God and neighbour. When we think of more, more, more, we forget those without homes, those who cannot afford both shelter and food, those with no one to love them. Advent calls us forth to experience God’s presence among us and directs us to the Paschal Mystery that inebriates us with vision and purpose. What will Advent mean for you this year?

Reflection by: Rev. Mario Cafarelli, C.PP.S. (Atlantic Province)

A Franciscan Reflection For Gaudete Sunday

From AmericanCatholic.org.

Saddam Bagged

Well now, Huckleberry! This was indeed cause for rejoicing this morning.

"The former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions," said President Bush. That pretty much says it all.

Now this wretch will face the charge of assorted crimes against humanity. The Kurds want a piece of him, as do the Shi'ite Moslems of Iraq, and the Iranians. And we still would like to shoot him full of scopalomine to find out everything he knew about the two attacks on the World Trade Center.

The timing could not have been better (unless it had come back in April/May, but finding one guy in such a large country is no easy task). This is a wonderful Christmas present for the American and Iraqi people.

This will not end the fighting in Iraq, to say nothing of the war on Moslem terrorism. But it is a major symbolic victory in that effort. Recall that about half the folks shooting at our guys in Iraq are from outside Iraq. Some are al Qaeda volunteers. Some are just armed anti-American fanatics from all over the Moslem world who want to take a few potshots or even blow themselves up to kill Americans. They don't really care about Saddam. They will tend to see this capture as another "American injustice." The faster we can locate and kill these people the better. Short of lobotomizing them, there is no other way to deal with them.

But this should take the wind out of the sails of the Saddam loyalists. The symbol of the regime is captured in a disgraceful fashion, hiding underground and not putting up much of a fight after vowing to go out guns blazing, looking more like a desert hermit than the former all-supreme dictator. That image, broadcast worldwide, is a refreshing and wholesome one for the world to see.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?