Christmas Traditions


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I next recall another jolly holiday, Christmas. In those days and in ours, candles were always a part
of the exuberant decoration which always marked this season. As every decorator knows (and
writers, too, of once-called "women's" magazines), candles are cheap (let's not mince words), and
they do (so sayeth Martha Stewart and her ilk) spruce up and up market any home quickly, easily,
and with instant effect. This is why fully 35% of candle sales are made for Christmas and the season.

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Christmas Traditions

  1. 1. Christmas Traditions
  2. 2. Preface / Introduction@~~~>The LAST Time I Made This OFFER I was BURIED in calls so I am limiting this to theNEXT 5 PEOPLE ONLY CALL ME NOW - dont miss out! CALL ME NOW for your FREEInternet marketing consultation. $100 value. Let an expert show you RIGHT NOW how to profitonline every single day without leaving home. CALL ME -- Liz English -- NOW, (315) 668-1591.LIVE 24/7/365.
  3. 3. Table of Contents1. On the subject of candles, why women buy them, why men dont... and why, having read thisarticle, youll stock up.2. On Figs.3. Of plums, their sweetness, politics, and the eternal desire for more.
  4. 4. Christmas TraditionsOn the subject of candles, why women buy them, why mendont... and why, having read this article, youll stock up.By Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. It has long been my contention and pet belief that we denizens of SpaceshipEarth, for all the formal education weve had, know next to nothing not just about our particularplanet and our very own solar system... we know little or nothing (but think quite differently) aboutthe hundreds of things that we see constantly, use frequently and have known about sinceconception. We may know the names of these things, all these things, but what we know beyond thatis superficial, cursory... and more often than not, wrong.Being the Good Samaritan I am, I often write about common things that we think we know, butdont. Today this burgeoning tradition takes on another item known to all, known to none. Its thecandle.For the incidental music for todays article, my friend Graham Lee said I couldnt do better thanElton Johns "Candle in the Wind" (1973) Many others would concur with Grahamsrecommendation... but I do so without great enthusiasm. Eltons lyrics are too often glib and banal.As for his characterization of Marilyn Monroe, it is insipid, factually wrong and willfullymisleading.. Otherwise, I like it as much as Graham.Still, he managed to garner a knighthood (the all important "k") for his additional too sweet lyricsabout Diana, Princess of Wales, and if hes good enough for Her Majesty, hes good enough (justbarely) for me. Find it in any search engine and play it as you read this article. I promise toilluminate this subject.Candles I have known (at least superficially).Like most middle class Americans I have had more than a nodding acquaintance with candles sincebirth. My birthday cakes were adorned with the requisite number. These were promptly blown out inthe prescribed manner, after suffering through the annual rendering of "Happy Birthday," asophomoric and irritating little ditty that accompanies you through life, your whole life, withoutsurcease. If you have any sense at all, you come to detest it and all the well-meaning morons (lets behonest with each other) who sing it at the drop of a hat, at the top of their voice, no matter where youhappen to be.Still, I have now in my possession a photograph from my third birthday in 1950. I was adorable. Thecandles look good, too.I next recall another jolly holiday, Christmas. In those days and in ours, candles were always a partof the exuberant decoration which always marked this season. As every decorator knows (andwriters, too, of once-called "womens" magazines), candles are cheap (lets not mince words), andthey do (so sayeth Martha Stewart and her ilk) spruce up and up market any home quickly, easily,and with instant effect. This is why fully 35% of candle sales are made for Christmas and the season.We want our homes to be festive... for pennies. Its an admirable objective, and candles certainlyhelp us achieve it.More candle recollections.If candles add their distinctive (and stylish) look to the holidays, they can in the right object turn asows ear into a silk purse. At least this was the case with Liberace. The man owed everything(except the love his doting mother lavished on her Lee) to a few candles, a pair of second-handcandelabra he found in a thrift store, and (again complete honesty is required by my professional Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 4 of 13
  5. 5. Christmas Traditionscanons) a quite mediocre rendering of any classical tune the audience knew, starting with "Bolero"and ending with -- "Bolero".More, and still more, memorable encounters with candles.Candles, you surely see now, play a significant role in my life specifically and my huge extendedfamily, generally. Since this is undeniable, I hasten to tell you a confirmatory anecdote. It concernedmy cousin Carolyns eighth grade graduation from parochial school. My grand mother (a low churchEpiscopalian at her highest) was perforce invited to the event... and reluctantly attended. It was thedays of mummery and Pius XII in the See of Rome and Grammie expected -- and got -- the worst. Ithappened as cousin Carolyn, always at her most deceptive in white (ask her poor hubbie),marcheddutifully down the aisle holding a white (what else?) votive candle. Each of her now sanctifiedclassmates did the same... When Grammie saw white clothed cousin so attired, never mind thecandle, she blurted out, in church no less, "I need a drink."The Protestant side of the family retired to a Howard Johnsons restaurant (and bar) where Grammieordered a grass hopper. It was the only time I ever saw her lose her cool, order a grass hopper (andperhaps a second) and utter sotto voce maledictions against The Eternal City. What percentage theoffending candles had in creating this havoc, I cannot say, although I did enjoy the mayhemimmensely.Utilitarian candles, a rare beauty.On one memorable day in the late 50s after a storm had pulverized the power grid, we were, theentire town, literally left in the dark. Candles rightly stand tall in such inconveniencing moments asthis. And so it was with us. We had, good Midwesteners that we were, a cache of candles, some new,some used (including a disgraced overly green candle my mother had banished from the diningtable). With its slender elegance it looked forlorn and out of place with the more work-a-daycandles. The entire family set about the business of rendering "Fiat lux" in candlepower. The finalresult was both practical and eye-catching. We were proud of our handiwork and condescendingabout the fact our neighbors were nowhere near as well prepared as we were.Such an attitude, of course, is only possible because of the continuing usefulness of candles which is,after all, why I wrote this article in the first place. This usefulness has been used to lift the darknessfor over 5,000 years now. Like so many things, it started in Rome (though ancient Egypt has itspartisans, too.) Still, Rome makes sense doesnt it?When you rule the largest empire in the world, there just arent enough hours in the day. Rulersalways need extra time. The candle, therefore, was needed yesterday and was popular at once,among Roman men who ruled the empire and their wives who ruled them.These wives, stern and practical, had the running of large establishments, and they relied on candlesto keep them running day and night. Men relied on candles; women either made them... or, in duecourse, purchased them. And so began the romance of women and candles which continues to thisvery day.Most men, clueless, know nothing of this perennial alliance and mutual admiration society, andalmost immediately err... and never ever get their equilibrium back. You may guess at the secret joyof women from such a situation. Which is why I offer all men this crucial admonition: whatever giftyou give make sure it contains the necessary candles, tall, elegant, chic. Inform her ladyship thatyou, her obedient servant, will unpack, position, and light them, making sure the wick burns clean.... And remember, as the old Chinese proverb says, "It is better to light just one little candle than tocurse the darkness." If you do not follow my fraternal advice, you will most surely come to find itsveracity, for without candles, you will surely come to know the ladys ability to cast you unto utter Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 5 of 13
  6. 6. Christmas Traditionsdarkness, where you will need a candle... but will not have one. The Sisterhood will see to that. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 6 of 13
  7. 7. Christmas TraditionsOn Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors Program Note. Tommy at the Montrose Spa up the street was in a pother when I walked inthe other day. "Where have you been?", he blurted out. Clearly, I had done something or, moreaccurately, failed to do something, but what? Tommys index finger pointed at my dereliction. It wasa box of Mission Figs. "I got three boxes of them a couple days ago," he said. "And I thought sureyou would have come in and snatched them up."He positively pouted, his point irrefutable... I was, after all, his absolute best fig customer. I got thelast box (for the day) and made my point, too. "You could have called me..." Oh, yes, he shouldhave... but in the event, the figs in question went precisely where they were destined to go, "Downthe hatch."Fig NewtonsMy first encounter with the fig I devour with avidity and the greatest possible satisfaction was notfelicitous. Quite the reverse. For you see, I have always hated Fig Newtons and nothing you say tome will change my adamant mind. So dont even try. Still, as this is an article about figs mentionmust be made of Nabisco, which buys as many figs as anyone, only to waste them by baking atrademarked version of the ancient fig roll pastry filled with fig paste.It might as well be wallpaper paste as otherwise; they taste about the same. Still, since invented byPhiladelphia baker and self-proclaimed fig lover Charles Roser in 1891, its characteristic chewinesshas been a staple of school lunch boxes as has its unusual shape. And yes, in the interests of civicboosterism I feel bound to tell you that the Cambridgeport, Massachusetts-based Kennedy BiscuitCompany purchased the Roser recipe. As I am writing to you near Cambridgeport, I feel compelledto tell you. Whats more because I can never give too many encomia to my city, state, andneighborhood you are now being told these unappetizing "Newtons" were named after Newton,Mass, just down the road a piece. Thus, I have done my duty. But never, ever ask me to eat a FigNewton or change my lifelong opinion that the cookie is an abomination and a colossal waste ofotherwise delectable figs."I dont care a fig about that."Have your heard this age-old expression? It means that your level of interest is so low in the thematter under discussion it hardly signifies at all. But I am sure that doesnt apply to the fig itself. Iam certain you do care a fig about the fig and desire to know absolutely everything about it, and so Iam about to dramatically increase your knowledge of Ficus, a genus of about 850 species of woodytrees. The common fig (and the adjective nettles this most popular of Ficus tree) is called Ficuscarica. Make a note of it. These things count in life.Ficus carica is native to the Middle East. People developing an instant affinity for figs took them ontheir travels. Soon they were everywhere from Portugal to Afghanistan. People of acutely differentcultural and political views found themselves united in their love of figs. Amity must startsomewhere. From the 15th century onwards it was grown in areas including Northern Europe and theNew World. This had two important results.First, Europeans, especially the English, turned mere figs into culinary perfection. Each Christmastheir figgy puddings became sinfully delicious architectural monuments, the grander you ordered,the higher your social standing (and likelihood for gout and other conditions of the well-to-do.) Figswere Introduced into England by Cardinal Reginald Pole. Burnt at the stake in 1558, he may havebeen the first notable to grill figs, a delicacy. Yes, figs were moving in the highest society including Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 7 of 13
  8. 8. Christmas Traditionsa featured position in a particularly rambunctious Christmas carol, "We wish you a MerryChristmas". The important and lyric line as far as figs are concerned is this: "Now bring us somefiggy pudding/And bring it right here", and people did as they were bade. Delicious.The second result occurred when figs landed in California. It was a match made in heaven, facilitatedby Fra Junipero Serra (d. 1784), the man who more than anyone was responsible for the quaint littlemissions. Thus we may call him the officiating agent in the marriage between the sweet taste ofluscious figs and the unmatched agricultural land and climate of the Golden State. The padressavored the figs and no doubt ate more than was good for them; (figs are like that.) And so MissionFigs were born... thereby provoking the great debate between the figs that grew in Cyprus ("theoriginal") and those caressed by the goddess Cali. Which was truly superior? Now lest you say youdont care a fig about this, I tell you this: figs no less than the rest of us bicker about their position inlife... and there isnt a fig grown who will tell you ca sera sera. The competition is real and each sideaims to win.Me, judge.I am one of the few people you will ever meet who has indulged himself, copiously, ravenously, notwisely but too well, with both claimants. Because I lived in California from1962; (in Nuestra Senorala Reina de Los Angeles, one of Serras most dubious achievements) I disdained the local figs (forall their glorious aspects). People are like that, overlooking perfection merely because it is readilyavailable. And thus I began my love affaire with figs in Cyprus, the place my long-ago Crusaderancestors found refuge at the de Lusignan Court after being summarily ejected from the Holy Landthey conquered and misunderstood.It did not take much of a leap to imagine that my devout but unlucky kinsmen made themselves ascomfortable as possible in the harbor at Limassol and buying a heaping basket of figs for a pittanceproceeded to spend a glorious afternoon devouring its contents, spitting stems into the ceruleanbeauty of the Mediterranean. It was not a bad way to spend centuries of exile. Perhaps the figs,exclusively local produce, helped make it all bearable, la dolce far niente being some smallconsolation for the now lost Via Dolorosa tread by Our Saviour and promising believers eternal lifeand redemption. Figs offer their own sweet balm... and we must take it as we can.Celebrity fig eaters.The argument for preferment of Cyprus figs over their succulent California rivals goes like this. Notonly are we the original deal, but we have been chosen and then eaten by an almost unbelievablecadre of VERY Important People. Here learned figs wax encyclopedic as they recall their celebratedeaters through the ages and the daunting array of figgy references, viz. The Holy Bible, in theGarden of Eden (where figs are rightly put out by the fact that their goodness is overshadowed foreternity by the egregious apple).This opinion is shared by every fig, outraged by injustice. Modestby nature, figs consider it only fitting and proper that their foliage, in the form of a leaf, should beused to perplex and shield youngsters of tender age, whose first baffling question to parents is: whatdid you do with your leaf, Mama? It is an almost unanswerable query.The figs of Cyprus are renowned throughout the mythological, classical and historic records. Howthey were used in the Jewish Passover celebration... how the legendary founders of the Eternal Cityand its empire, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf under a fig tree. (She-wolf milkbeing difficult to gather, the wolves seeing no reason to share, this notable figgy cocktail did notcatch on.) How Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, sat under a fig tree (apparently a popular past timefor historic figures) and changed the world. It is not recorded whether he ate of this fruit. We canonly hope he did, for millions depend on his own well-being and a mental clarity enhanced by figs .Cleopatra, some figs, and an asp. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 8 of 13
  9. 9. Christmas TraditionsLearned figs, the most numerous kind, all know that Egypts iconic Queen Cleopatra deprivedyoung Octavian Caesar of her body and renown by the simple expedient of placing an asp in abasket of ripened figs, pinching the serpent which retaliated by biting her majesty and ruining thefigs. (Shakespeare is graphic on this revolting fact.) Perhaps for this reason concoctions involvingasps and figs have been rare."The fig is a secretive fruit."Figs are not a prudish fruit. They pride themselves on their liberality of outlook, truly fruit of theworld. But even advanced figs still dance gingerly around the matter of D.H. Lawrences 1920success de scandale, "Figs"."The fig is a secretive fruit. As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic; And itseems male. But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is feminine."You need a fig leaf for the remainder and a place no one can find you whilst reading.Beside this wealth of imagery, literary references and the known dietary preferences of gods andprinces, Cali offers only one argument for its Mission Figs: unrivalled taste. And this, as Tommyknew, will always be paramount... which was the reason he should have called me forthwith, figsnot yet on the counter. I would have bargained for the lot and thanked Lawrence for telling me howto eat them."Just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.Envoi.Before going to Tommys today to see if there are Mission Figs available, if so pouncing to get allthat he has, I recommend as the music for this article "Liaisons" from Stephen Sondheims splendid1973 show "A Little Night Music." Find it in any search engine. Hermione Ginggold is perfectlyancient, world-weary and sardonic as Madame Armfeldt. Her disgust at the descending standards ofcontemporary life is palpable. "What once was a sumptuous feast is figs. No -- not even figs --raisins!" And that simply wont do. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 9 of 13
  10. 10. Christmas TraditionsOf plums, their sweetness, politics, and the eternal desire Dr. Jeffrey LantAuthors program note. I decided to walk to the Farmers Market yesterday; usually I ask MisterJoseph to drive me, the better to bring home the excessive armloads of produce I need to feel I haveenough. But the weather, on the cusp between a summer exiting and a fall arriving, was perfect forsomething ambulatory and good for you.Yes, it was a perfect day to be out and about.... and the way to the market hard by the Charles Hotelwas packed with everyone and his brother, folks who had the same idea as I did: to preparesquirrel-like for the rigorous winter ahead... never mind that every morsel I purchased this daywould be long gone before the first flake of snow hits the pavement. Its the thought that counts, thatthere would be enough, that I would have enough, and that this winter there should be, for me andmine at least, an ample sufficiency.It is most curious to me how this process works. One minute it is a hot, stiffling New Englandsummer day... then, as if by magic, there is a whiff of the New England autumn ahead with itspreview of gusts and dismay about the return of the winter that tests us all so sorely, the more so ifSocial Security is your metier. This touch of autumn is Natures wake-up call... and, unless you areclueless on such matters, you get the point and do the necessary. Thus I was walking to the Marketwith a friend who said, "I knew I should have worn my sweater." He really didnt need it... butNatures clues resonate more with some than others. Moreover since he is not of hardy stock, heneeds a call more clarion than I do. And he got it."Done for the season, sir."Last week there were white peaches, blueberries and a few blackberries, too. I asked how long thefabulous whites, an exquisite liquor in a soft skin, would last. The young woman behind the counter,overly plump and too young to catch her breath as often as she does, was cavalier. "Well have themfor another month at least." But today, just a few days after her confident pronouncement, there wereno whites to be had, no more to come, and so I was disgruntled. The only white peaches now were inmy head with many a long day to pine for them and wish them sooner here....But when God, they say, closes a door, He opens a window. And that was nothing but the truth thisday... for there before me was a deep purpled fruit I had, in my lamentation for the whites, forgotten.But the fruit had not forgotten me. "Try the plums, sir. Theyre oozing and ready to pop in yourmouth. No waiting!" Thus the young woman, who any 18th century English novelist would havecorrectly described as a "saucy wench", thereby in some measure regained the good opinion ofYours Truly... and so, by the merest touch, I confirmed her evaluation... eyes engaged for color...fingers to test for perfect readiness... only mouth yet to call into action... and that, onceaccomplished, lead to a dozen ready to take home and devour without ceremony.And so with the plum I had regained my equanimity and good cheer. I knew exactly how Little JackHorner must have felt when he, plumless one minute and chagrined, had by deft digital movementextracted a beauty from his Christmas pie. Plums have been coming to the rescue just like this forcenturies and so boys like Jack "Sitting in the Chimney-corner" know that a single plum at just theright moment can make a world of difference and that old grannies should be reminded of thiswhenever the world is too much with us, late and soon.Facts about plums. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 10 of 13
  11. 11. Christmas TraditionsA plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus. It is a diverse group of species includingpeaches, cherries and bird cherries, amongst others. Prunus is distinguished from its relationsbecause its shoots have a terminal bud and solitary side buds (not clustered), with flowers in groupsof one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one side and asmooth stone (or pit.)Mature plum fruit may have a dusty-white coating that gives them a glaucous appearance; this iseasily rubbed off. This is an epicuticular wax coating and is known as "wax bloom". Dried plumfruits are called dried plums or prunes, although prunes are a distinct type of plum and may haveantedated the fruits now commonly known as plums... but universally regarded as the best.Plum: the best part of anything.You have only to eat a plum to understand why they are regarded as "good". But you need to knowsomething of its long history and association with mankind to understand why the very word itselfhas passed into our language meaning "the best part of anything," for to call a thing "plum" is to callit the very best it can be. The question is, how to put this "bestness" to work for our greatestpleasures.Uses for plums.Plum fruit tastes sweet and/or tart. The skin, for instance, may be particularly tart. It is juicy and canbe eaten fresh or used in jam-making. Plum juice can be fermented into plum wine; when distilledthis produces a brandy known in Eastern Europe as Rakia. In the English Midlands, a cider-likealcoholic beverage known as plum jerkum is prized.In considering how plums are used you must remember that refrigeration is a very recentdevelopment in human history. One feature very much in the plums favor is that it dries well andkeeps its flavor. Dried plums (called prunes) are sweet, juicy, and contain several antioxidants.Theyre widely known for their laxative effect, particularly with elderly people suffering fromconstipation. How to handle this aspect of what the prune can do has produced sharp disagreementamong plums, all of whom have an opinion on the matter.On the one hand, plums are glad to be helpful, especially to old folks who have eaten plums andbeen loyal to them for a lifetime. On the other hand, plums wish to develop their reputation for beinga celebrity fruit, edgy, cool, the favorite of trend-setters and calorie conscious fashionistas. Thissplit, so distressing to plum lovers everywhere, after many acrimonious years now seems on the roadto reconciliation thanks to recent developments in a thing which initially wasnt a plum at all... sugarplums."Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads".A sugar plum is a piece of dragee candy that is made of dried fruits and shaped in a small round oroval shape. But "plums" here mean any dried fruit, such as dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates,dried cherries, etc. The dried fruit is chopped fine and combined with chopped almonds, honey andaromatic spices, such as anise seed, fennel seed, cardamom etc.; then rolled into balls, to be coatedin sugar or shredded coconut, thence to go into expectant mouths and such gems of our culture as "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (1822) ; Eugene Fields poem "The Sugar Plum Tree" (from"Poems of Childhood", 1904) and, of course, Tchaikovskys masterpiece "The Nutcracker" (1892)where the Sugar Plum fairies and their brilliant theme still enchant despite being egregiouslyoverplayed every Christmas. (Even some plums concur). As for the plums, every time they hear it,they get angry... for their name and flavorful renown have been usurped to sell... apricots! Andcherries! And that will never do.Check your sugar plums... make sure there are plums there. Accept no substitutions. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 11 of 13
  12. 12. Christmas TraditionsSince launching this campaign, plum sales have soared... and plums, gathering to extol themselvesupon this success, have forwarded any number of additional ideas to keep the ball rolling. The best isto rework Jack Horners presentation. Abercrombie and Fitch has been approached for one of theircomely lads to hold a strategically placed plum... and nothing more. Kinky.The Plum Book.No story on the plums and their great reputation would be complete without a reference to whatautomatically becomes the most popular book in Washington, D.C. the minute the televisionnetworks project the next President. Its actual name is "United States Government Policy andSupporting Positions"; it is, however, universally called "The Plum Book." It contains over 9,000civil service leadership and support positions (filled and vacant) in the Legislative and Executivebranches of the Federal Government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointments, in otherwords political appointments.Are you of an upwardly mobile and competitive disposition? Then imagine this: whilst scanning ThePlum Book for something geared to your genius, you nibble an authentic sugar plum whilst listeningto the great melodies of the sugar plum fairies. If youre a plum lover it gets no better than this... goto any search engine now and, with Tchaikovskys help and an appointment from the president turntoday into Christmas, the plum itself in all its manifestations the best present of all. Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 12 of 13
  13. 13. Christmas TraditionsResourceAbout the Author Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a widerange of online services for small and-home based businesses. Dr. Lant is also the author of 18best-selling business books.Republished with authors permission by Elizabeth English Copyright Elizabeth English - 2012 13 of 13