It’s coming. My new old holiday. Sol Invictus.
Last year JJ most annoyingly said about New Years, “it’s just a day, anyway.” This was right before he passed out on the bed, stoned and slobbering at 10pm. Remember those days? It’s not an illegitimate opinion about many holiday’s, to be sure. I’ve thought it, I’ve heard it hundreds of times and I bet you have probably thought it too. But I find it a bit childish, overly simplistic, uneducated and completely lacking in nuance.
Let’s have a little history lesson about the upcoming holidays…
What the fuck are we really celebrating anyway? The Victorious Sun, of course. Now for those of you who don’t know your history, this is an ancient and worldwide celebration. Each culture and each age has had their own way of celebrating it, but in essence they are simply what Heinrich Zimmer would call “local inflections” of a mono-myth. In recent times we have separated Christmas and New Years, but historically they both stem from the winter solstice celebration.
In Europe: The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feastcelebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.
In the East: The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (復, “Returning”). Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan (湯圓, as pronounced in Mandarin Pinyin: Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. In Korea, similar balls of glutinous rice (Korean:새알심) (English pronunciation:Saealsim), is prepared in a traditional porridge made with sweet red bean (Korean: 팥죽)(English pronunciation:Patjook).
In Scotland: The most widespread Scottish custom is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight on New Years. This involves being the first person (usually tall and dark haired) to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal,shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts, and often Flies cemetery) are then given to the guests.
In India: Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in the month of Poush in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India.
I’m planning for this holiday to have 12 days, so I think that it deserves more than one post. But let’s start with recommendations for few foods and maybe you can suggest some recipes of your own. I’m thinking Crepes, Fish, Babbka, German Alcohol Candies, Rice Candies, Marzipan, Gluwein and/or Mead and Whiskey, Persimmons, Pomegranates and Patjook would be a good start. First, you always need a good celebration drink – not just any old everyday booze. Every holiday also needs candy of some sort. With the German Alcohol Candies you can kill two birds with one stone and Marzipan can be used in all sorts of stuff, breads, cookies, crepes, chocolates. Fish….well, turkey is taken. Besides, we don’t really have a holiday featuring seafood. I think it’s about time.
So, why Crepes? Because they are universal. Each culture has some sort of variation on this theme, some ‘local inflection’ of a mono-bread. It is symbolic of society, of agriculture, of the cycle of life and death. And, like life, they can be both simple and complex. Plus, you can stuff them with basically what ever you want and have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or desert.
Now, of course you can set aside any day to celebrate with your family or enjoy the company of your friends. We tend to have great personal expectations of holidays and forget that they are meant to be universal. The point is that it is not just “any day”, it is an archetypal day. The significance of these kinds of holiday’s is that it is a time set aside for us to put ourselves in accord with the mysteries of being and with the universe. Through our individual experiences of the circles of our existence, through our participation in the great hoop of humanity, we are to connect with the unity of life.
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
6 tbsp water
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
Mix all ingredients, cover and chill for at least an hour. In a greased frying pan pour 1/8 cup of batter in the center. Gently rotate the pan to form the crepe. You can keep your heat a little higher if you hold your pan over the flame rather than set in on the burner. If you have trouble with this, there are many videos on YouTube to illustrate the technique. Cook until it looks dry on top and then gently turn it over and cook for about another 30 seconds.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 roma tomato, chopped
Fresh spinach, chopped and pressed dry
Garam masala to taste
10 oz whole-milk ricotta (1 1/4 cups)
Spicy lemon seasoned almonds, chopped
Saute your tomatoes, garlic, spinach in the olive oil. Season with garam masala. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add ricotta and nuts. Fold the mixture into your crepes and roll them up. Squeeze a bit of lemon on the top. This could also be good with curry cashews. You can top these will a little cheese or some sauce. Be creative. Make your own tradition.