Is it just a coincidence-or is it fitting- that Family Day immediately follows Valentine’s Day? This Monday, February 15th is Family Day in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, a holiday that was originally created so families could spend time with each other, but also because, let’s face it, we need a break in this bleak month; the last holiday was New Years Day and the next one doesn’t happen until Good Friday. That just won’t do. Continue »
Bruegel: “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”
Tomorrow, Tuesday February 8th is Mardi Gras, the festivity that marks the final day of the Carnival Season in the Catholic church, which traditionally runs from the Epiphany to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The Carnival Season was originally an amalgam of pagan celebrations appropriated and adapted by the church state and celebrated by the hoi polloi and is characterized by excess; excess consumption of food, alcohol, parties and parades.
Participants in the revelry wore-and still wear- masks, originally so they could raise hell in public and mock the church and aristocracy with impunity, and the masquerade balls and parades are still a major part of the celebrations in Carnivals over the world, most noticeable in the Carnivals of Venice, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. The fact that you could run amok on this day and get away with it Scott-free is also reflected in another moniker for this day, Shrove Tuesday; “shriving” means confessing one’s sins and gaining absolution, so you have one last bash before lent, shrive, and enter that season guilt free. Continue »
This Sunday is super for two reasons; the Super Bowl, -the championship game that determines the top team in the National Football League- is being played, and it is also the Chinese New Year’s Eve. On this day we have an overlap of one, very old tradition, going back, it is thought by most, to the Shang Dynasty ( 1766 B.C.E.- 1122 B.C.E) and the other considerably newer tradition, the Super Bowl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
All over the world people will be celebrating the Chinese New Year’s Eve in traditional ways, with feasts of fish dinners and dumplings, fireworks (to celebrate the arrival of the new year and to drive away evil), exchanges of little red packets of money (for good luck), and an all night vigil known as Shou Sui in which folks stay up to ward off the mythical beast, “Nian” (“Year”) which, legend has it, comes out to annoy and harm people. Luckily, Nian is afraid of the colour red, and he absolutely hates fireworks, so if you’ve set off some fireworks, and have lit some red lanterns you should be sitting pretty.
Who said February is boring? There is so much going on that we had to add an extra day at the end of the month to make sure we get everything done! The next fortnight alone will see many of us celebrating Chinese New Year (go here for Chicken Balls!) watching the Super Bowl, stuffing ourselves with pancakes on Fat Tuesday and spending time with the family on Family Day. Did we miss one? Oh yeah, a little thing called Valentine’s Day, you don’t want to forget about that one!
This is the one day when you may want to treat that special loved one to a romantic dinner, perhaps one that you made yourself. Or maybe not. If you have kids around, it might be hard to get into that romantic spirit, and if you are not particularly adept in the kitchen, it is probable that the only thing you want to make for dinner are reservations.
If it is your turn to host the gang for the Super Bowl party, or any similar gathering, preparing dinner for a large crowd can be a daunting task; you have to come up with a menu that you’re pretty sure everyone will like, something that is delicious and familiar but not old hat or boring. Sometimes it’s exciting to serve something new, something that your guests have never had before. And when it comes to hosting, spending time with your guests is the main idea, you don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen fussing over cheese soufflé or worrying about whose steak is medium rare and whose is medium well. Maybe next time you have a crowd over for supper, why not put a distinctively Canadian spin on it and serve them Cipaille? Continue »