Wednesday, 26 December 2007


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” - Herman Melville

Today is Boxing Day, St Stephen’s Feast Day and also the beginning of Kwanzaa.

Boxing Day is so called from a sealed clay pot with a slit on its top (the “Christmas Box”), which tradesmen, servants and children took “boxing” with them. They solicited tips from householders they had served during the past year.
When Boxing Day comes round again
O then shall I have money;
I’ll hoard it up, and Box and all
I’ll give it to my honey.

This type of sealed clay pot is still in use in Greece as a money box (koumbarás) that children use to save their coins in. Once it is full, the clay pot is smashed releasing its treasures.

St Stephen was the first Christian martyr, explaining the proximity of his Feast Day to Christmas. Boxing Day was also called “Wrenning Day” because of the old Suffolk custom of stoning a wren to death in memory of St Stephen’s martyrdom. The dead wren was then carried about on a branch of gorse by boys who begged for money.
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
Was caught St Stephen’s Day in the furze;
Although he be little, his honour is great,
Then pray kind gentleman, give us a treat.

Kwanzaa is an American celebration that is growing in popularity. Celebrated every year from December 26 through to New Year’s Day, this festival sets aside time for African-Americans to commemorate African and African-inspired culture and food, while reinforcing values passed along for generations. Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest” and appropriately, this week-long festival culminates in a glorious feast on December 31 that draws on a variety of cuisines. At the center of the celebration is the table, set with a bowl of fruits and vegetables, a straw place mat, a communal cup and a seven-branched candelabra. The kinara (candle holder) is placed on a handmade woven mat. The kinara holds seven candles, each one standing for one of the seven principles.

Umoja (unity) To work together in peace with our family, our community, our nation, and our race.
Kujichagulia (self-determination) To team up our minds to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.
Ujima (collective work and responsibility) To team together to solve problems and to make our community a safe and productive place.
Ujamaa (cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and profit from them together.
Nia (purpose) To have a plan for the future and to be willing to help others to succeed as well.
Kuumba (creativity) To always do as much as we can, in any way we can, in order to leave our community a better and more beautiful place.
Imani (faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The center candle is black, three are red, and three are green. The candles’ colors stand for the dark skin of Africa's people, the continents' green hills, and the blood Africans shed for freedom. And, while the table includes a wide variety of creatively inspired appetizers, main dishes and desserts, the feast is not complete without recipes made with sweet coconut.

1 1/2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (about 20 cookies)
1 2/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1/3 cups butter or margarine, melted
1 large banana, sliced
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 package (4-serving size) vanilla flavour instant pudding & pie filling
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, well drained
2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping
Heat oven to 325˚F. Mix cookie crumbs, 2/3 cup of the coconut and melted butter in medium bowl until well blended. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Cool. Arrange banana slices in crust. Pour cold milk into large bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut. Spoon over banana slices in crust. Gently stir pineapple into whipped topping. Spread over mixture. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired.
Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Store leftover pie in refrigerator. Makes 8 servings.

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