Friday, December 24, 2004

A Christmas Wish

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers and loved ones a very merry and blessed Christmas.

If you are going through hard times, put your faith in the Babe born this night. He does not want you to be unhappy, no matter what you are going through, what you have lost, what you have done. Happier times will come again. He was born for all of us. He died for all of us. He rose again for all of us. He will come again to judge all of us with mercy but justice.

Rejoice, over the birth of the Key To Our Salvation!

Merry Christmas!

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.

Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn't go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away. One of them denied him.
He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race.

I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.
Attributed to James Allen Francis.

The Only Christmas Story That Counts

From the Douai-Rhiems Bible On Line

1 And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
2 This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,

5 To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
6 And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.

9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.

17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

May all who read this experience God's love in the miracle of the birth of a Child in Bethlehem more than 2000 years.

Merry Christmas to all!

Isaiah 9:6

For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.

Yorkshire Puds

These Yorkshire Puddings are a must with any beef dish. Never, ever substitute margarine for butter, or skim milk for whole.

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 (perhaps the same gravy used in the sirloin pie) on these is delicious.

Sirloin Pie

2 pounds sirloin tips
1 can Dawn Fresh Steak and Muchroom Sauce
3 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Tabasco Sauce
1 jar Mushroom Gravy
fresh ground black pepper
3 large onions
2 cloves garlic
1 pound fresh mushrooms
2 single pastry crusts
2 deep cake pans
Trim the fat from your tips, and fry them in butter on the stove. Combine the Dawn Fresh, Worcestershire, Tabasco, mustard, and gravy, and heat in a saucepan.

Wash and slice the onions, garlic, and mushrooms, and fry them in butter in another saucepan.
Combine all three pans. and season to taste. Pour into the cake pans, and cover with pie pastry.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Serve hot.

Alternative: You can leave the onions raw, which gives them a slightly more peppery taste.

Washington Irving On the English Stagecoach Driver

[Three young boys inside the coach with the author] 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.

And Norman Rockwell's interpretation of the same personage:

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

This was a favorite of my grandmother, and is one of mine. This was a favorite of wassailers, waits, and carollers, and is mentioned in Dickens' A Christmas Carol (it is the carol the young boy starts to sing outside Scrooge's office door on Christmas Eve)

1. God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
For Jesus Christ our Savior,
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power,
When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

2. In Bethlehem, in Jewry,
This blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger,
Upon this blessed morn;
The which His mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn.


3. From God our heavenly Father,
A blessed angel came.
And unto certain shepherds,
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born,
The Son of God by name:


4. Fear not, then said the Angel,
Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Savior,
Of virtue, power, and might;
So frequently to vanquish all,
The friends of Satan quite;


5. The shepherds at those tidings,
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a feeding,
In tempest, storm, and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway,
This blessed babe to find:


6. But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereas this infant lay
They found him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling,
Unto the Lord did pray:


7. Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood,
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas,
Doth bring redeeming grace.


8. God bless the ruler of this house,
And send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas
May live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred
That live both far and near.

Alternate Chorus:
That God send you a happy new year,
Happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.

A Child's Christmas In Wales, Part 5

This is the final installment of Dylan Thomas' classic poem in prose.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets.

At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house.

"What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"

"No," Jack said, "Good King Wenceslas. I'll count three."

One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door.

"Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ..."

And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole.

And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.

"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said.

"Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.

"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum."

It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Meditation For Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Day Twenty-Five of the Advent Novena

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I Saw Three Ships

Another of my favorite old English carols:

1. I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day in the morning.

2. And what was in those ships all three?
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And what was in those ships all three?
On Christmas day in the morning.

3. The Virgin mary and Christ were there
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas day in the morning.

4. Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas day in the morning.

5. Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas day in the morning.

6. And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day in the morning.

7. And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas day in the morning.

8. And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas day in the morning.

9. Then let us all rejoice, amain,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Then let us all rejoice, amain,
On Christmas day in the morning.

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."

Quoted by Washington Irving

From A Christmas Carol by George Wither

So now is come our joyful feast,
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
And every post with holly.

Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors' chimneys smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
And all their spits are turning.

Without the door let sorrow lie,
And if for cold it hap to die,
We'll bury it in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

1. We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year!

Good tidings we bring for you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year!

2. Now bring us some figgy pudding,
Now bring us some figgy pudding,
Now bring us some figgy pudding,
And a cup of good cheer!


3. We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
So bring it out here!


4. We all like our figgy pudding;
We all like our figgy pudding;
We all like our figgy pudding;
With all its good cheer.


5. Good tidings we bring for you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year!
And a Happy New Year!

'Tis Merry 'Neath the Mistletoe

By J Ashby Sterry

'Tis merry 'neath the mistletoe
When holly berries glisten bright
When Christmas fires gleam and glow,
When wintry winds so wildly blow
And all the meadows round are white
'Tis merry 'neath the mistletoe.

A privilege 'tis then you know
To exercise time-honored rite;
When Christmas fires gleam and glow
When loving lips may pout,
Though with other lips they oft unite-
'Tis merry 'neath the mistletoe

A Child's Christmas In Wales, Part 4

This Dylan Thomas classic is one of my favorite Christmas pieces.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.

"I bet people will think there's been hippos."

"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"

"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail."

"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house.

"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."

"Let's write things in the snow."

"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."

Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travellers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior." We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay.

And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the centre of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

Good Husbandly Fare

By Thomas Tusser 1573

Good husband and huswife now cheefly be glad,
things handsome to have, as they ought to be had;
They both doo provide against Christmas doo come,
To welcome good neighbor, good cheere to have some.

Good bread and good drinke, a goof fier in the hall,
brawne, pudding and souse, and good mustard withall.

Beefe, mutton, and porke, shred pies of the best,
pig, veale, goose and capon, and turkey well drest,
Cheese, apples and nuts, joly Carols to heare,
and then in the countrie is counted good cheere.

What cost to good husband is any of this?
good houshold provision onely it is.
Of other the like, I doo leave out a menie,
that costeth the husbandman never a penie.?

Dame, Get Up And Bake Your Pies!

I think that the tune is "London Bridge is Falling Down" based on the repetitions (I don't read music). But some have told me that it is not. However, it was common in the 18th Century to use tunes for various lyrics, and "London Bridge" works with these lyrics rather well. So here at Recta Ratio, the tune is "London Bridge."

Dame, get up and bake your pies,
Bake your pies, bake your pies;
Dame, get up and bake your pies,
On Christmas-day in the morning.

Dame, what makes your maidens lie,
Maidens lie, maidens lie;
Dame, what makes your maidens lie,
On Christmas-day in the morning?

Dame, what makes your ducks to die,
Ducks to die, ducks to die;
Dame, what makes your ducks to die,
On Christmas-day in the morning?

Their wings are cut and they cannot fly,
Cannot fly, cannot fly;
Their wings are cut, and they cannot fly,
On Christmas-day in the morning.

And, speaking of mince pies, here Samuel Pepys mentions them in 1666:

December 25, 1666
Lay pretty long in bed, and then rose leaving my wife desirous of sleep, having sat up til four this morning seeing her mayds make mince pies. I to church, where our parson Mills made a good sermon. Then home and dined on some good ribs of beef roasted and mince pies; only my wife, brother, and Barker , and plenty of good wine of my own, and my heart full of true joy, and thanks to God Almighty for the goodness of my condiiton at this day.

Some Christmas Candy You Can Still Make

Candied Orange Peel

6 large oranges
2 c sugar
2 t ground ginger (optional)
Remove orange peel in quarters; place in saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to boil; cook until tender, pouring off water and adding fresh cold water several times. Drain peel; cut in thin strips with scissors. Combine 11/2 cups sugar, salt, and water in saucepan; cook until mixture threads (242? on candy thermometer). Add peel; cook over low heat until syrup is absorbed. Roll strips in remaining 1/2 cup sugar until coated. Cool. Makes about 1/2 pound.
NOTE: 2 teaspoons ground ginger may be combined with 1/2 cup sugar for coating, if desired.

Praline Pecans

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 stick butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups pecans
1) Combine all ingredients.
2) Bring to soft ball stage (238-240 degrees).
3) Remove from heat and stir until mixture cools and thickens.
4) Spoon out on buttered wax paper or aluminum foil.

Chocolate Orange Fudge

2 cups superfine sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup finely chopped candied orange peel

Garnish: candied orange peel, cut into small thin slices

Butter an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine sugar, chocolate, cream, and salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and chocolate is melted. Cook mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 238?F. Remove pan from heat and add butter and orange peel, swirling pan without stirring. Cool fudge 5 minutes and beat with a wooden spoon until it just begins to lose its gloss (do not overbeat or fudge will seize). Pour fudge immediately into baking dish and cool 15 minutes, or until it begins to harden. Cut fudge into 1-inch squares and cool completely. Fudge may be kept, in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container lined with wax paper, in a cool dry place 2 weeks.
Garnish fudge with candied orange peel slices.

Makes about 1 pound

O Emmanuel: Last of the "O" Antiphons

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

Day Twenty-Four of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent? We rarely get so far. Advent is almost as long as it can possibly be this year (one day short of its maximum duration).

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Boar's Head Carol

The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio

Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino0

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.

Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio.

Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

Marmion: A Christmas Poem

By Sir Walter Scott

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek'd; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

A Child's Christmas In Wales, Part 3

The next installment of Dylan Thomas' classic, which, by the way, was produced as a very good TV play for the BBC some years ago, with Denholm Elliot narrating, though it is hard to find today.

"Were there Uncles like in your house?"

"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow.

Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlours; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlours, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers."

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs (sic), would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinselled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street.

For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens.

Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Another Trio of Christmas Cookies

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.

Pizzelle Cookies

Making pizzelles requires a pizzelle iron--found at most cookware stores, often as part of an electric waffle iron.

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat pizzelle iron as directed by the manufacturer.
In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar. Add the butter and vanilla. On low speed, gradually add flour and baking powder to make a sticky dough.
Drop dough from a teaspoon onto the hot iron.
Close the cover of pizzelle iron and bake for 30 to 45 seconds, or until nicely browned.
Using two forks, remove the hot wafer from the iron and place the pizzelle flat on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Be sure to lay the hot pizzelles in a single layer on the cookie sheet. When they are completely cool, you can stack them. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Makes about 30 pizzelles.


It would not be Christmas without my Jumbles:

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

Soup For You!

Almond Soup is very 18th century.

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.

And Here Is A Very Festive Dish To Make Merry With

Pork Tenderloin Roast With Apples and Cream

2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
boneless pork tenderloin 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.

But Give Me Holly

by Christina Rossetti

But give me holly,
bold and jolly,
Honest, prickly, shining holly;
Pluck me holly leaf and berry
For the day when I make merry.

The Song of the Holly

By none other than William Shakespeare himself.

Blow, blow thou winter wind --
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude!
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly!

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky --
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot!
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly,
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly!

The Holly and the Ivy

Another of my favorite Christmas songs. The Shorter Oxford Book of Carols speculates that the song originally consisted of verses 2-5, with verse 1 as the original chorus, and that the existing chorus was added in the 18th century.

1. The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Oh, the rising of the sun,
The running of the deer.
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the quire.

2. The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Savior.


3. The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.


4. The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas day in the morn.


5. The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.


6. The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

O Rex Gentium

O King of the Nations, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

Day Twenty-Three of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Mediatation For Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Abolish Proven Posthumous Miracles For Would-Be Saints?

The Pope is thinking about it, and it sounds like a good idea to me. I don't see why a cause for sainthood should be dependent on some person being cured of cancer.

I see no reason to restrict the ranks of the official saints. There are already thousands of saints, up to 4 dozen for every day of the year. And this would speed up some causes that I favor, like Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Monsignor Ronald Knox, Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Bl. Anna Catherine Emmerich, Bl. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman, and open up the door to other devout Catholics for whom there is, as yet, no official cause (Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Russell Kirk, Evelyn Waugh, Orestes Brownson, Malcolm Muggeridge, J.R.R. Tolkien, to name just a few).

The Gloucestershire Wassail

From Wales to its near-neighbor, Gloucestershire, for one of my very favorite Christmas songs:

1. Wassail! Wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
From the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

2. So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

3. Here's to Dobbin, and to his right eye,
God send our a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

4. So here is to Broad May and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

5. And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

6. Here's to our Colly, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.

7. Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

8. Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

9. Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

A Child's Christmas In Wales, Part 2

The late Boston radio talkshow host Jerry Williams used to devote a half hour to reading this Dylan Thomas classic a few days before Christmas every year.

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the colour of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlours, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells.

"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"

"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."

"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."

"There were church bells, too."

"Inside them?"

"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen"

"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...."

"Ours has got a black knocker...."

"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."

"And then the presents?"

"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs.

"He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

"Get back to the Presents."

"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs (sic) of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were moustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

"Go on to the Useless Presents."

"Bags of moist and many-coloured jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds.

Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons."

The Original Lyrics To Deck the Halls

Some interesting changes have been made to this wassailing song of Welsh origin to make it acceptable to the modern caroller.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel
Fa la la la la la la la la
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol
Fa la la la la la la la la

See the flowing bowl before us
Fa la la la la la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus
Fa la la la la la la la la
Follow me in merry measure
Fa la la la la la la la la
While I sing of beauty's treasure
Fa la la la la la la la la

Fast away the old year passes
Fa la la la la la la la la
Hail the new ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la la la la la
Laughing, quaffing, all altogether
Fa la la la la la la la la
Heedless of the wind and weather
Fa la la la la la la la la

And If Those Cookies Don't Instantly Rot Your Teeth Out, Here Is Some Punch To Wash Them Down With

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.


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 1980 Boston Globe Holiday Cooking and Cheer supplements.

A good host will also have on hand fresh apple cider, and dairy eggnog, for those careful not to get too pie-eyed at Christmas.

Festive German Christmas Cookies

Today, we offer 3 cookie recipes of German origin which all scream, "Christmas!!!" Seems as if all the good stuff about how we celebrate Christmas either comes from Germany or the British Isles.


1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Molasses
3/4 cup Sugar, brown
1 Egg
1 tbsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Lemon rind; grated
2 3/4 cups Flour; sifted
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Cloves, ground
1 tsp Allspice, ground
1 tsp Nutmeg, ground
1/3 cup Citron; chopped
1/3 cup Nuts; chopped

1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup confectioners Sugar

Mix the honey and molasses; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool thoroughly. Stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice, and lemon rind.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Stir into the honey-molasses mixture. Mix in the citron and nuts. Chill the dough overnight.

Roll a small amount at a time, keeping the rest chilled. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into oblongs 1 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches. Place about 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet.

Bake in a 400 F (moderate/ hot) oven for 10 to 12 minutes until, when touched lightly, no imprint remains.

While the cookies bake, make the Glaze:

Boil together the sugar and water until the first indication of a thread appears (230F). Remove from the heat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar.

Brush the hot icing thinly over the cookies. (When the icing gets sugary, reheat slightly, adding a little water until clear again.)

Makes 6 dozen


1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Pure Lemon Extract
1/2 teaspoon Pure Anise Extract
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/8 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
confectioners' sugar

Place brown sugar and butter in large mixer bowl. Cream with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extracts. Add remaining ingredients, except confectioners sugar, to sifted flour and sift again.

Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing well.

Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into ovals and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets and place on wire racks.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar while cookies are still warm.

When cookies are cool, store in airtight containers.


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 flour and soda and add to the egg mixture. Blend.

Cover the bowl and let stand 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into thirds.

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

The Christian Symbolism of the Candy Cane

The humble candy cane (there is one before me as I type) is rich in Christian symbolism.

But look for the most authentic: one broad red stripe with three thin red stripes between the broad stripes.


The history of the candy cane is a little vague, and there are anti-Christian efforts around to completely pooh-pooh the story. It is said to be an urban legend, as is the history of the carol, the Twelve Days of Christmas (which was a way of teaching catechism to beleaguered Catholics in England). But the would-be debunkers usually forget the very real inter-Christian persecutions of Europe from the Reformation until the Kulturkampf.

Jack Frost Is More Than Nipping Our Noses

He is dining in high style.

We had a little snow in Boston (less than an inch), but afterwards, the temps dropped, so that this morning at 5, it was about 5 degrees, with a windchill well below zero.

But of course, this being New England, the weather is about to change. It is expected to reach freezing today, and climb to near 50 degrees tomorrow.

From Poor Robin's Almanac

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

O Oriens

O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

Day Twenty-Two of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Libros Deponendi

I should have posted this Friday, I think:

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

An old school holiday song

A Child's Christmas In Wales, Part 1

This year's extended Christmas prose is Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas In Wales (last year, it was Washington Irving's Bracebridge Hall stories). I'm breaking the story into 5 more-or-less random parts between now a Christmas Eve.

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.

December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbour's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.

"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.

"They won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."

There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.

"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the telephone box.

"Let's call the police as well," Jim said.

"And the ambulance."

"And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them.

Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?"

Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown

From Frank Kelly's Comedy Countdown Album. If you watch British comedies on PBS, you know Frank Kelly as Father Ted. I noticed that today's Christmas entires have a decidedly Irish flavor.

Day One
Dear Nuala,
Thank you very much for your lovely present of a partridge in a pear-tree. We’re getting the hang of feeding the partridge now, although it was difficult at first to win its confidence. It bit the mother rather badly on the hand but they’re good friends now and we’re keeping the pear-tree indoors in a bucket. Thank you again.
Yours affectionately,
Gobnait O’Lúnasa (pronounced Govnet O'Lunacy)

Day Two
Dear Nuala,
I cannot tell you how surprised we were to hear from you so soon again and to receive your lovely present of two turtle doves. You really are too kind. At first the partridge was very jealous and suspicious of the doves and they had a terrible row the night the doves arrived. We had to send for the vet but the birds are okay again and the stitches are due to some out in a week or two. The vet’s bill was £8 but the mother is over her annoyance now and the doves and the partridge are watching the telly from the pear-tree as I write.
Yours ever,

Day Three
Dear Nuala,
We must be foremost in your thoughts. I had only posted my letter when the three French hens arrived. There was another sort-out between the hens and the doves, who sided with the partridge, and the vet had to be sent for again. The mother was raging because the bill was £16 this time but she has almost cooled down. However, the fact that the birds’ droppings keep falling down on her hair whilen she’s watching the telly, doesn’t help matters. Thanking you for your kindness.
I remain,
Your Gobnait

Day Four
Dear Nuala,
You mustn’t have received my last letter when you were sending us the four calling birds. There was pandemonium in the pear-tree again last night and the vet’s bill was £32. The mother is on sedation as I write. I know you meant no harm and remain your close friend.

Day Five
Your generosity knows no bounds. Five gold rings ! When the parcel arrived I was scared stiff that it might be more birds, because the smell in the living-room is atrocious. However, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the beautiful rings.
Your affectionate friend,

Day Six
What are you trying to do to us ? It isn’t that we don’t appreciate your generosity but the six geese have not alone nearly murdered the calling birds but they laid their eggs on top of the vet’s head from the pear-tree and his bill was £68 in cash ! My mother is munching 60 grains of Valium a day and talking to herself in a most alarming way. You must keep your feelings for me in check.

Day Seven
W e are not amused by your little joke. Seven swans-a-swimming is a most romantic idea but not in the bath of a private house. We cannot use the bathroom now because they’ve gone completely savage and rush the door every time we try to enter. If things go on this way, the mother and I will smell as bad as the living-room carpet. Please lay off. It is not fair.

Day Eight
Who the hell do you think gave you the right to send eight, hefty maids-a-milking here, to eat us out of house and home ? Their cattle are all over the front lawn and have trampled the hell out of the mother’s rose-beds. The swans invaded the living-room in a sneak attack and the ensuing battle between them and the calling birds, turtle doves, French hens and partridge make the Battle of the Somme seem like Wanderly Wagon. The mother is on a bottle of whiskey a day, as well as the sixty grains of Valium. I’m very annoyed with you.

Day Nine
Listen you louser !
There’s enough pandemonium in this place night and day without nine drummers drumming, while the eight flaming maids-a-milking are beating my poor, old alcoholic mother out of her own kitchen and gobbling everything in sight. I’m warning you, you’re making an enemy of me.

Day Ten
Listen manure-face,
I hope you’ll be haunted by the strains of ten pipers piping which you sent to torment us last night. They were aided in their evil work by those maniac drummers and it wasn’t a pleasant sight to look out the window and see eight hefty maids-a-milking pogo-ing around with the ensuing punk-rock uproar. My mother has just finished her third bottle of whiskey, on top of a hundred and twenty four grains of Valium. You’ll get yours !
Gobnait O’Lúnasa

Day Eleven
You have scandalised my mother, you dirty Jezebel,
It was bad enough to have eight maids-a-milking dancing to punk music on the front lawn but they’ve now been joined by your friends ~ the eleven Lords-a-leaping and the antics of the whole lot of them would leave the most decadent days of the Roman Empire looking like “Outlook”. I’ll get you yet, you 'ould bag !

Day Twelve
Listen slurry head,
You have ruined our lives. The twelve maidens dancing turned up last night and beat the living daylights out of the eight maids-a-milking, ‘cos they found them carrying on with the eleven Lords-a-leaping. Meanwhile, the swans got out of the living-room, where they’d been hiding since the big battle, and savaged hell out of the Lords and all the Maids. There were eight ambulances here last night, and the local Civil Defence as well. The mother is in a home for the bewildered and I’m sitting here, up to my neck in birds’ droppings, empty whiskey and Valium bottles, birds’ blood and feathers, [sobbing] while the flaming cows eat the leaves off the pear-tree. I’m a broken man.
Gobnait O’Lúnasa

Christmas In Carrick

From the Clancy Brothers' Christmas Album

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!

Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake

As I sat in my window last evening,
The letterman brought it to me
A little gilt-edged invitation sayin'
"Gilhooley come over to tea"
I knew that the Fogarties sent it.
So I went just for old friendships sake.
The first think they gave me to tackle
Was a slice of Miss Fogarty's cake.

There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
Sure t'would kill a man twice just eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty's Christmas cake.

Miss Mulligan wanted to try it,
But really it wasn't no use
For we worked in it over an hour
And we couldn't get none of it loose
Till Murphy came in with a hatchet
And Kelly came in with a saw
That cake was enough be the powers above
For to paralyze any man's jaws


Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away
Till she flipped over Flanagans brogans
And she spilt the homebrew in her tea
Aye Gilhooley she says you're not eatin,
Try a little bit more for me sake
And no Miss Fogarty says I,
For I've had quite enough of your cake


Maloney was took with the colic,
O'Donald's a pain in his head
Mc'Naughton lay down on the sofa,
And he swore that he wished he was dead
Miss Bailey went into hysterics
And there she did wriggle and shake
And everyone swore they were poisoned
Just from eating Miss Fogarty's cake



1 pound flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
pinch salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1 T butter
3/4 oz. fresh yeast
3 oz. confectioner's sugar
1 C tepid milk
1 egg beaten
8 oz. raisins
4 oz. currants
2 oz. chopped mixed orange and lemon peel
silver ring, thimble, coin, stick, and pea wrapped in wax paper
Make sure that your utensils are hot when you start.
Mix flour, salt and spices. Rub in the butter. Mix the yeast with 1 t sugar and 1 t tepid milk and let stand 4-5 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar to the flour mixture and mix well. Pour tepid milk and beaten egg into the yeast mixture and add that tot he flour. Knead well (5 minutes at high speed) until the batter is stiff but elastic. Fold in the dried fruit and peel, and cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
Knock back the dough and knead well 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Grease 2 7-inch tins. Pour one half the dough into each tin. Add the wrapped trinkets. Cover the tins with cloth and let them rise 30 minutes-1 hour. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done.
1 T sugar
2 T milk
Boil the milk and dissolve the sugar in it. Brush this over the loaves. Put them back in the over for 2-3 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into thick slices and buttet them.
Barmbrack is traditonal in Ireland for Halloween or Christmas, and makes great toast.

O Clavis David

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

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

Irish Spiced Beef

There is just time enough to have this ready for christmas Day or St. Stephen's Day. In Ireland, this is a favorite at Christmas time.

Irish Spiced Beef

6 lb. middle rib rolled and boned
2 C brown sugar
3 C salt (sea salt or kosher salt is great for this, and yes 3 cups of salt!)
1 oz. saltpeter
6 oz. freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. whole allspice ground
6 oz. whole juniper berries ground
1/2 whole nutmeg ground
4 T cinnamon
2 T ground ginger
Grind all the spices fine in a food processor. Let the flavors meld in a mason jar 2-3 days (40 hours or as long as the Lord was in the tomb will do). Unroll the rib. Rub the spices well over the beef and into every crevice/ Put in an earthenware dish covered with plastic and refrigerate 3 days, turning occasionally and rubbing more spice in as needed. The longer you leave the beef in the spices, the longer it will keep and the better it will taste. Re-roll the rib and re-tie it just before cooking. Cover with cold water, and simmer 2-3 hours or until soft. Cut into thin slices to serve.

From Darina Allen's Traditional Irish Cooking.

Day Twenty-One of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

How To Make Wassail

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.

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.


by Robert Herrick

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.

Caramel Popcorn Balls

To hang on your tree, of course!

The balls stiffen when they are kept chilled in the refrigerator and soften when they are left out at room temperature.

10 cups popped plain popcorn
20 caramels, unwrapped
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter or margarine

Put popcorn into a very large bowl; set aside.

Measure marshmallows and water into a 2- or 4-cup glass measure or bowl. Add the caramels to the glass measure or bowl and microwave on HIGH for about 1 1/2 minutes.

Stir and microwave 1 more minute. Stir the mixture until the marshmallows are completely melted (about a minute).
Add vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pour immediately over the popped corn and toss until well coated and cooled. Lightly grease hands with butter or margarine.

Using about 1 cup of popcorn mixture, form into a ball.

Wrap the ball with plastic wrap and use a ribbon to tie. The ribbon colors can be coordinated for holidays. Repeat with the remaining caramel corn and place the popcorn balls in the refrigerator until needed.

Baked Caramel Corn: Instead of making popcorn balls, spread the popcorn mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 250 degrees F oven for about 18 minutes (watch carefully to prevent overbrowning). Break apart.
Makes 10 balls.

The Week When Christmas Comes

by Eleanor Farjeon

This is the week when Christmas comes.
Let every pudding burst with plums,
And every tree bear dolls and drums,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every hall have boughs of green,
With berries growing in between,
In the week Christmas comes.

Let every doorstep have a song,
Sounding the dark street along,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every steeple ring a bell,
With a joyful tale to tell,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every night put forth a star,
To show us where the heavens are,
In the week when Christmas come.

Let every stable have a lamb,
Sleeping warm beside its dam,
In the week that Christmas comes.

This is the week Christmas comes

Make We Merry

From a Balliol Manuscript of about 1540

Let no man come into this hall,
Groom, page, nor yet marshall,
But that some sport he bring withal!
For now is the time of Christmas!

If that he say, he cannot sing,
Some other sport then let him bring!
That it may please at this feasting!
For now is the time of Christmas!

If he say he can naught do,
Then for my love, ask him no mo!
But to the stocks then let him go!
For now is the time of Christmas!

The Wassail Song

Another of my grandmother's favorites, and a prime carolling song.

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggers
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before.


Our Wassail cup is made
Of the rosemary tree
And so is your beer
Of the best barley.


Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.


We have a little purse
Made of ratching leather skin;
We want some of your small change
To line it well within.


Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out some mouldy cheese,
And of your Christmas loaf.


God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress too;
And all the little children
That round the table go.


Menu For a Tree-Trimming Party

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

Christmas Is Comin'

One of my grandmother's favorites:

Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please to put a penny
In the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny,
A ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny
A farthing will do.
If you haven't got a farthing,
Then God bless you.

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

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

Mediatation For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Day Twenty of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

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