Pork and Sauerkraut

Pork and Sauerkraut

Happy New Year! I can’t think of anything more traditional for New Year’s Day than good ol’ Pork and Sauerkraut!

Me on 01JAN16Where I grew up was on the border between the outskirts of Philadelphia and the eastern reaches of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. This led to two different traditions in my household. The Mummer’s Parade or the Tournament of Roses in the morning followed by Pork and Sauerkraut for supper.

Well, nowadays I’m the dad and we have a little tradition of our own. My sons’ Boy Scout Troop 624 holds an annual Pork and Sauerkraut dinner at Schuylkill Lodge 138 in Orwigsburg, PA. Every member of the troop shares KP duty serving up the holiday fare. It’s a wonderful time to get in touch with the community and share some fellowship with the troop families.

So, why Pork and Sauerkraut? Well, tradition holds that pork is lucky because pigs root forward rather than backwards like chickens and turkeys. As such, pigs are considered to be symbols of progress and are indicative of the promise of a New Year. Traditionally, when cabbage was harvested and preserved at the end of October it would take about eight weeks for the fermentation of sauerkraut to complete. This made the sauerkraut available right in time for New Year’s. They added on the symbolic meaning of the shreds of cabbage. The long shreds are meant to symbolize long life. In either case, the tart sauerkraut is a wonderful flavor pairing with the fatty, salted pork.

Here’s a video recipe that I hope you’ll enjoy.

Xmas Heroes – Parents

Xmas Heroes – Parents

What would Christmas be without parents? As much as Christmas has become a child-focused affair, it really depends on the parents to bring the magic to the holiday. Having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can say this is completely true.

My parents did such a wonderful job of making Christmastime special for my sister and me. My mother spent weeks ahead of the big day baking cookies. It was a great time for togetherness. She put on the Bing Crosby album and stacked up the Chipmunks behind it and we began making and baking the cookies that would go into Tupperware containers until family and friends came by. My father got out the electric racetrack and we raced our little cars for hours on end. We all sat together and watched Christmas specials and holiday movies on TV. We all got together and played board games and cards. Weather permitting, we went out and had snowball fights and built forts. It was such a wonderful experience and gave me a lifelong love for the holiday season.

On the flip side, as a parent I get no greater joy than burying my wife and kids in presents and watching holiday movies together. Creating a place where my kids can enjoy the magic of the holidays is an annual challenge and goal for me. If you’re anything like me, the thrill of finding a 24×7 Christmas music station is a harbinger of marvelous things to come. I’m no Clark Griswold, but I do like things to be a bit over the top for the holidays. I like having decorations in every corner of the house. I like having all the tastes and smells of the season available throughout the month of December and even the weeks before and after.

Honestly, I miss the days of counting down the days until Christmas and having a mountain of presents mysteriously appear beneath the tree. That was a real treat. It made the holidays genuinely magical for me. That being said, I never cease to be amazed at just how the magic continues to apply. As the parents, it is our job to make those presents mysteriously appear for Christmas morning. The amazing thing is that we actually put it together. Having slowly gathered and wrapped the presents for our munchkins, we tuck them away to await the big reveal. Stepping back from our late night Santa stand-in, we’re nearly just as thrilled and amazed as if we were the ones receiving the presents. It is a truly enchanting sight. The twinkling lights of the tree cast a special glow over the stack of presents we’ve assembled for the kids. It’s enough to give me a chill of delight just looking at it.

I’m so pleased to have shared this week of Christmas Heroes with you. Thank you for following our series. For the Twelve Days of Christmas this year, I have assembled a variety of obscure yuletide entertainments. I hope you will enjoy them as much as you have our Christmas Heroes and Historical Grinches.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Christmastime is quickly slipping away and we’ve only got a little bit of the magic left to share. So, why not sit the family down around a bowl of spaghetti and play some trivia games?

Spaghetti Day

Spaghetti Day Spaghetti is a wonderful comfort food for the chillier times of the year. You can enjoy the usual tomato sauce, alfredo sauce or garlic butter depending on your mood. You can also add proteins such as meatballs, shrimp, sausage or langostinos to fortify the dish. If you’re into vegetables, you can use a light broth and make a wonderful pasta primavera.

There are unresolved issues about the origin of spaghetti. Some say that it was created in Ancient Greece and others hold that Marco Polo brought it back from the East after dining on it at the court of Kublai Khan. Whatever the truth is, we’re glad we have this versatile dish to keep us warm and nourished.

Trivia Day

Is there anything more enjoyable for a family to enjoy than an evening playing a trivia game? From the classic Trivial Pursuit and all of its specialty variations (we really enjoy Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit) to the latest craze in trivia games, trivia games test your memory and teach you things you might not have known before.

If you want to tackle the latest trivia games, I’ve located 119 amazing facts that could help you in your next trivia challenge.

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

It’s the Eleventh Day of Christmas and not a moment too soon. Who doesn’t love a band of pipers?
 

Eleven Pipers Piping

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

We’re tripping happily along through the Christmas season and today we’ve got a very silly holiday to celebrate. Tossing fruitcakes is a hungry business, so it’s best to follow it up with a trip to your favorite buffet establishment.

The Great Fruitcake Toss

Fruitcake Toss Some people just don’t appreciate a tasty treat. For those who are on the hater trail, they’ve made a holiday out of throwing your fruitcake away. Far away. As far as you can physically throw the thing.

Some people suffice to just toss it in the trash after the guests have gone home, but the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado, decided to make a full fledged sporting event of it. In years past, they had catapults and pneumatic cannons, but recently they’ve gone back to the basics. The Manitou Springs event inspired others nationwide. If there’s not a fruitcake toss event near you and you’re not inclined to eat it, you can always start one in your town.

Buffet Day

At this point, you’ve been cooking for weeks. You might want to consider treating yourself to a night off. Let someone else do the dishes.

But where to go? Someplace where everybody has their choice of what to eat. Let the salad eaters have their greens and the beef and potatoes types can get get rough and rustic.

Buffet

It’s the Ninth Day of Christmas and we’ve actually got nine ladies dancing today!
 

Nine Ladies Dancing

New Year’s Day

Happy New Year

New Year’s Day

Some people start off with traditional dishes or festive parades and others simply start off with a hangover. Either way, it’s your day to start anew!

Hangovers

hangover Sadly, some people get a bit carried away on New Year’s Eve. I’m not one of them.

I stay home with my wife and kids and we throw confetti around the house at midnight. We drink Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider. We make a lot of noise and go to bed.

If you are one of the unfortunate multitude who wings one too many dings, I’ve found 11 surefire cures for a hangover. Click through to have a look at the magic formula. I hope you feel better soon.

Traditions

People have a lot of traditions for New Year’s Day. I’m from a part of Pennsylvania where the Pennsylvania Dutch are a strong cultural influence. There’s nothing more traditional around my home than enjoying a plate of pork and sauerkraut for good luck on New Year’s Day. Some people find sauerkraut a little bitter, so it helps to cut up an apple and cook it in with the sauerkraut to take off the edge.

Another tradition from where I grew up is the annual Mummer’s Parade. This parade has been going in its present form since 1901. The parade is made up of local organizations who participate in four divisions. The string bands, comics, fancies and fancy brigades.

Another parade that I’ve always been a fan of is the Tournament of Roses. The floats are tremendous works of art. Mosaics made of variously colored roses travel the streets of Pasadena, California. This parade starts at 8AM Pacific Time which is 11AM here on the East Coast. That’s a plus because those who want to watch both the Mummers and the Rose Parade won’t have to choose between them.

Mummers Parade

Click the pirates to watch the Mummers in Philadelphia starting at 9AM

Tournament of Roses

Pork & Sauerkraut

Pork & Sauerkraut may or may not bring good luck, but what’s the harm in trying?

Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions A new year means a new start for a lot of people. 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but significantly fewer stick to them. The most common resolutions center around:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting organized
  • Getting fit and healthy
  • Getting back on a budget
  • Losing weight
  • Spending more wisely

Up to 25% of people who make resolutions give up on them before the end of January. The best way to stay out of this group is to start small. Only make resolutions you think you can keep. Break them out into small achievable steps. When you’ve succeeded in completing a step, it will boost your confidence to keep on with the following steps. Stay positive. Stay on track. You will succeed!

Well, I couldn’t find 8 maids milking, but I found this charming oil by mid-17th Century Dutch artist Gerard ter Borch.

Eight Maids A'Milking

“A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn” circa 1652-1654 by Gerard ter Borch

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve

Here’s the final day of 2015. As we’ve been reflecting on our year and looking forward to the next, it’s time for one last look before the year slips away.

It’s a tradition to ring in the new year with family and friends because the first people you see will bring you luck, good or bad depending on who you’re with. The most popular places to celebrate are Las Vegas, Disney World and Times Square in New York City.

times-square
 

If you’re interested in watching a live streaming Times Square party, the broadcast begins at 5:55PM New York Time. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!
 

 

For the Seventh Day of Christmas, we actually have seven swans a-swimming! Okay, it’s a swan and 6 cygnets, but let’s not split hairs.
 

Seven Swans A'Swimming

Falling Needles Family Fest Day and Bacon Day

Falling Needles Family Fest Day and Bacon Day

Only one day left in the year and we’re looking at cleaning up and having a jolly good treat.

Falling Needles Family Fest Day

Maybe you’re not ready to take down the Christmas tree just yet, but when you do please act responsibly. Falling Needles Family Fest Day is another of the wacky holidays invented by the folks at wellcat.com

I’ve linked some tips for environmentally friendly ways to dispose of a live Christmas tree. If your township does not provide a drop off point or a curbside woodchipper, you might want to consider the tips in the video.

As far as cleaning up the pine needles in your home, remember to empty your vacuum canister or put in a fresh bag. Whatever the vacuum doesn’t get up can be gathered with a lint roller. You can also use nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol or even hand sanitizer to get sap off your hands after you’ve cleaned up after your tree.

Bacon Day

It’s almost shocking that we’ve had to wait this late in the year to celebrate something as delicious and versatile as bacon. Bacon is marvelous for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some people even indulge in bacon candy or bacon flavored ice cream. That’s a bit beyond my tastes, but there are countless novelties associated with bacon that you can find if you’re a connoisseur. Bacon Day

For your Sixth Day of Christmas, six geese a flying? Well, geese are wild. Just try finding a picture of them laying.
 

Six Geese A Laying

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Winter’s off to a quick start and we’re going to help things along with some cutout snowflakes. After a fun time crafting our own snowflakes, it’s only fitting to sit down to a piece of rich, delicious fruitcake. Let’s get celebrating!

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day

Some of us get enough of the real things and may even have a yard full of them at this point. Just the same, it’s a fun holiday craft to engage in. Kids love to cut wonderful shapes and watch with wonder as the snowflakes unfold into individual works of art.

So, whether you live someplace where it snows or not, you can have a Winter Wonderland indoors with just a few creative clips.

National Fruitcake Day

I know, I’m one of the few people who actually likes fruitcake. Apparently, I’m not the only one since they’ve designated a national day for it. Wahoo! Makes my day.

First references to fruitcake date back to Roman times. Many would joke that the same fruitcakes have been passed back and forth as gifts since that time, but with proper preservatives and airtight packaging a good fruitcake will only last 25 years.

Two towns have long been battling for the title of Fruitcake Capitol of the World. Corsicana, Texas, is home to the Collin Street Bakery while Claxton, Georgia, is the home to two major fruitcake bakeries: the Claxton Bakery and the Georgia Fruitcake Company. While it hasn’t yet been finally decided, Claxton has claimed the title on their water tower.

Today is the Third Day of Christmas! Here are 3 French Hens
 

Three French Hens

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

We’ve got pfeffernusse cookies today to help us celebrate Festivus. Frank Costanza may not have approved of tinsel, but we approve of cookies covered with confectioner’s sugar!

Festivus

A Festivus for the rest of us! This is a silly holiday that was invented by Frank Costanza on the Seinfeld TV show. As it turns out, it was actually invented by the father of Dan O’Keefe who wrote the episode. His experiences were filtered through the lens of the Seinfeld characters and made even more comical.

Aspects of the holiday are the unadorned aluminum pole, the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. Click the image of the book to learn more about this anti-commercial, non-religious, totally hilarious holiday.

National Pfeffernusse Day

This spicy cookie has roots and variations throughout Northern Europe. German immigrants brought it to America with them as a holiday tradition some time in the 1850s.

Traditional homemade pfeffernusse are a small hard biscuit that you may wish to dip in your tea, coffee or milk. Typically, the store bought cookies are baked to be soft and able to be eaten without dunking.

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Click on the cookies to see the recipe
Image courtesy of Jenn at allrecipes.com

Go Caroling Day and World Snowboard Day

Go Caroling Day and World Snowboard Day

It’s the Saturday before Christmas and we’re going to get some fresh air. Whether you are sporty or musical, there are going to be some calories burnt and some memories made.

Go Caroling Day

Go Caroling Day Caroling is a traditional holiday pastime. Everybody loves Christmas music. One of the best ways to enjoy Christmas music is to sing it from door to door. Some people go the whole way and dress in period costume.

Whichever way you enjoy it most, caroling is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air this late in the year.

World Snowboard Day

World Snowboard Day is a celebration of winter sport for snowboard enthusiasts. There are 56 events scheduled in 18 countries this year. Some places are offering free lessons for beginners!

Originally called Snurfing, it was created in 1965 by Sherman Poppen of Muskegon, Michigan. The National Snowboarding Championships have been held for 33 years. The popularity of this sport is understandable because it is aerobic, exercises major muscle groups and increases flexibility.

World Snowboarding Day

Any outdoor exercise is beneficial because it causes relaxation, reduces stress and releases endorphins. Whether you’re strolling door to door and singing or tearing up a double black diamond trail on your snowboard, today is a great day to get out and burn some calories.