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December 24 is National Eggnog Day

national eggnog dayToday is National Eggnog Day, celebrated each year on Christmas Eve. The sweetened drink is traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, eggs, and spices, often mixed with spirits such as rum, brandy or some combination of liquors.

Also known as egg milk punch, it has a rich history dating back to “posset,” a hot beverage that mixed milk and eggs with wine or beer. Eggs and milk were a rare commodity among the peasants of medieval England, so it was most often drunk by the wealthy in toasts to health and prosperity.

In the 1700s, eggnog crossed the Atlantic to the Americas, where its use was more widespread due to colonists’ direct access to chickens and cows. England’s high import taxes on brandy, its preferred alcoholic ingredient, made cheap, readily available rum a popular substitute.

If you’d like to try your hand at making eggnog, you can’t go wrong with George Washington’s recipe. The father of our country used four different kinds of alcohol. Parties at Mount Vernon must have been a lot of fun.

He might have had a tipple before penning the directions: he forgot to include the number of eggs needed. Cooks of his era estimated that a dozen eggs would suffice. Here are his instructions:

One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.

If the thought of raw eggs doesn’t thrill you, try this cooked version. Omit the alcohol if you’re the designated driver. Have a happy National Eggnog Day!

December 23 is Festivus

Happy Festivus!

Today is Festivus. What is it? Where did it come from? Per Wikipedia:

Festivus is bfestivusoth a parody and a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 that serves as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas season. It has been described as “the perfect secular theme for an all-inclusive December gathering.”

The holiday’s celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, practices such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength,” and the labeling of easily explainable events as “Festivus miracles.”

In recent years, the Festivus pole has been appropriated as a symbol of protest against local governments that place nativity scenes in public areas. In Florida, a variation made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans sparked outrage at its proximity to the baby Jesus. Poles wrapped in rainbow colors representing LGBTQ rights have been erected in Georgia, Oklahoma and Washington State.

The “Real” Festivus

Festivus existed long before Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe was pressured into sharing it with the world. (More on that later.) His father Daniel O’Keefe Sr. created it in 1966 as a secular celebration, unburdened by the religious zeal and consumerism of the holiday season. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Festivus was an annual tradition in the O’Keefe household.

Festivus had no set date. It could fall on any day of the year although usually not on Christmas Day. Inspired by the protagonist of Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape, who recorded himself once a year, O’Keefe Sr. used a tape recorder to capture the proceedings.

The family still has some Festivus audiotapes dating back to the 1970s which include participants speaking out about what was bothering them in what could be termed a proto-Airing of the Grievances without the fancy name.

In 2013, Dan O’Keefe spoke on CNN about the real-life practice of Festivus. He revealed that the aluminum pole was a Seinfeldian invention; his father used a clock.

“The real symbol of the holiday was a clock that my dad put in a bag and nailed to the wall every year … I don’t know why, I don’t know what it means, he would never tell me. He would always say, ‘That’s not for you to know.'”

The following is an excerpt from a 2004 New York Times interview with Dan:

Festivus“It was entirely more peculiar than on the show,” the younger Mr. O’Keefe said from the set of the sitcom “Listen Up,” where he is now a writer. There was never a pole, but there were airings of grievances into a tape recorder and wrestling matches between Daniel and his two brothers, among other rites.

“There was a clock in a bag,” said Mr. O’Keefe, 36, adding that he does not know what it symbolized.

“Most of the Festivi had a theme,” he said. “One was, `Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?’ Another was, `Too easily made glad?’ ”

His father, a former editor at Reader’s Digest, said the first Festivus took place in February 1966, before any of his children were born, as a celebration of the anniversary of his first date with his wife, Deborah. The word “Festivus” just popped into his head, he said from his home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

For more information about the O’Keefe family Festivus, get a copy of The Real Festivus (2005) by Dan O’Keefe. He has managed to capture his family’s holiday in all its strangeness. Additionally, Festivus! The Book devotes an entire chapter to the O’Keefe brand of Festivus.

Festivus, Televised


How did Festivus make it into an episode of Seinfeld? According to a 2013 story in Mother Jones Magazine, it wasn’t Dan’s idea.

One day in 1997, one of O’Keefe’s brothers let it slip to a member of the Seinfeld staff that this family holiday existed, and the crew thought thought was funny enough to write into the series. “I didn’t pitch it. I fought against it,” O’Keefe says. “I thought it would be embarrassing and drag the show down, but…Jerry liked it.”

If Dan’s brothers hadn’t blabbed about it, the world would have one less holiday to celebrate. We’re against that.

Festivus, Costanza Edition

The Festivus most people know is the version depicted in the Seinfeld Season 9 episode entitled The Strike. In it, Frank Costanza explains the incident that inspired him to invent Festivus.

FrankFestivus Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!
Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?
Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born—a Festivus for the rest of us!
Cosmo Kramer: That must’ve been some kind of doll.
Frank Costanza: She was.

Frank revives the holiday, much to the chagrin of son George, still traumatized by childhood memories of having to fight his father and lose the Festivus Feats of Strength year after year. As Frank plays back a recording of one such humiliation for his friends to hear, George bolts for the door. (Like many holidays, Festivus can sometimes take a dark turn.)

If you’d like to celebrate but need a little guidance, check out these Festivus Rules. Or make up your own tradition following the one directive used for all Seinfeld episodes: No hugs, no learning. We think the O’Keefes would approve.

Happy Festivus!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

December 22 is National Cookie Exchange Day

Today is National Cookie Exchange Day. Take a break from last-minute decorating, shopping, wrapping, and planning for the coming holiday. Happy? Humbug? Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s difficult to avoid the stress leading up to the biggest holiday of the year.

National Cookie Exchange Day

Sit back and eat a cookie or three. Swap your favorites with friends and family, try one of the following recipes:

Snickerdoodles
Molasses Drops
Classic Sugar Cookies
Soft Christmas Cookies
Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Or visit a bakery and take the whole day off. We’ll never tell! The point of this holiday is to relax and enjoy yourself.

Happy National Cookie Exchange Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Forefathers’ Day

forefathers' day

Forefathers’ Day commemorates the landing of the Mayflower and the pilgrims’ subsequent founding of Plymouth Colony in North America. The ship arrived on December 11, 1620. So why is the anniversary celebrated on December 21 or December 22?

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII announced his Gregorian calendar would replace the Julian calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar.  The Roman emperor’s system had miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes.

This concerned the pope because it meant that Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, fell further away from the spring equinox with each passing year. Ten days were subtracted to realign the seasons with the calendar. The beginning of the new year was also moved to January 1 from March 25.

England and the colonies didn’t convert to the new system until September 1752, causing the month’s calendar to look like this:

 cal 9 1752
  September 1752
 S  M Tu  W Th  F  S
       1  2 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Benjamin Franklin wrote of the change, “It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2, and not have to get up until September 14.”

When the Old Colony Club of Plymouth inaugurated Forefathers’ Day in 1769, it mistakenly reset the anniversary of the ship’s landing to December 22. (Perhaps it utilized the 11-day difference appropriate to its own century.)

Founders' Day

Members still observe the holiday on December 22, wearing top hats and marching down Plymouth’s main street led by a drummer. After firing a small cannon at the end of the route, they return to their club for breakfast and toasts to the Pilgrims.

Other groups like the General Society of Mayflower Descendants observe the occasion, sometimes called Compact Day, on December 21, as does the Pilgrim Society, a group formed in 1820 that serves a traditional dinner of succotash, stew, corn, turnips, and beans.

No matter how or when you choose to celebrate it, have a happy Forefathers’ Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays