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Christmas Trivia, Fun and Games

The three months at the end of the calendar year represent most retailers’ best hope for a successful year. Many do as much business then as in the preceding nine months. And that business revolves around the celebration of the birth of a Child more than two thousand years ago. So, in the spirit of the season, let’s take a brief look at interesting tidbits, back stories and other oddities that have developed during those years.

OK, one more musical trivia question, then it’s time for a snack:

“Now bring us some Figgie pudding… .” What’s that all about?

Figs were one of the first fruits cultivated in the cradle of civilization, then brought to England by the Romans, and put by the English into song as the traditional Christmas Carol “We Wish You A Merrie Christmas”. Or is it “Merry” and “Figgy”? We’re still working on that.

Figgie Pudding

(modern recipe)(from www.clevelandseniors.com)
Ingredients:
1 cup Canola Oil
1 cup light molasses
1 package of Fig Newtons™
1 cup milk
1 cup of dark raisins (optional twist: soak the raisins in Southern Comfort™
or brandy overnight)
Ѕ cup walnuts, chopped
Ѕ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 Tbs. Hot water
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
ј lb. of butter , melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
Optional - Splash of liquor
1 pint whipping cream
Instructions:
Pour the milk over the fig Newtons in a large mixing bowl.
Stir until the cookie part softens.
Mash the mixture together to create a paste.
Add oil, molasses, walnuts, flour, soda, nutmeg and salt and mix together.
Gently add the raisins and mix.
Put the mixture in a metal bowl with a tight fitting lid.
Put 2-3 inches of water in a very large kettle and place the metal bowl inside.
Cover the kettle and simmer on low for three hours (to create "steaming).
There are other equally good methods of steaming. Any steaming method will work
as long as the pudding steams for approx. 3 hours.
Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. It should come out clean.
After it has cooled in the bowl for a minimum of one hour, invert the pudding onto
a serving plate.
Combine eggs, melted butter and confectioner's sugar and mix with a whisk.
If you are adding a splash of liquor it would go into this mixture.
It should be relatively thick (add as much sugar as needed to make it
"run thickly off a spoon")
Whip the cream until it is stiff.
Gently add whipped cream to the sugar mixture.
To serve, rewarm the pudding to just above room temperature
(the microwave is fine for this).
Put a slice of the warm pudding on a plate and pour the sauce over the top.

And, while we’re on the subject… Plum Pudding

Another English seasonal tradition is Plum Pudding (that has the traditions baked right in the pudding). The traditions are a ring, a pence (a new penny today?), a thimble and a button. After everyone in the home had taken a turn at stirring the batter (for good luck and to spread the liability around if someone choked on a “tradition”) the cook would drop the traditional items into the pudding pan along with the batter with the idea of keeping the objects as apart from each other as possible. After a sumptuous feast of roast beef or goose the flaming plum pudding was ceremoniously carried in to the dining room. Each person at the table would receive a chunk of pudding (not a slice). The person who had received the ring in their chunk of pudding would be married within the year. The recipient of the coin would become wealthy, while the holders of the thimble and the button (ideally a young woman and a young man, respectively) would end up unmarried for the next year.

Now that we’ve had our snacks, let’s get back to the serious business of wrapping the presents

“What a beautiful package! You shouldn’t have… .”

Yes, you should have. Because wrapping Christmas presents in an attractive manner is as much a part of the gift-giving process as the gift-giving idea itself. Starting in the later portion of the 1800’s, and pretty much coinciding with the reign of Queen Victoria, people began to learn in the popular press how to create packages, and wrapping papers and ribbons and bows that would contain each present so that it remained a surprise until the moment it was unwrapped. This was also the period when ankles were hidden from the lustful thoughts of men by ladies’ long dresses – and tables with “limbs” were required to be decorously concealed behind layers of skirting. So it’s only natural that dolls and other toys and presents should be concealed as well. Packaging went from primarily a do-it-yourself project to a multi-million-dollar business as the industrial revolution made affordable wrapping paper and boxes more widespread. In the latter part of the Twentieth Century there was a movement back to do-it-yourself hand-crafted decorative wrappings, but that pretty much gave way to the custom-made containers for records, then CD’s and the advent of the “gift-bag”. Now, even guys with no decorating sense could pop an otherwise impossible-to-wrap, odd-shaped present into a decorative bag, attach a pre-tied stick-on bow – and be on a par with the most accomplished gift wrapper.
Written by Dianne Weller

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