Sunday, November 25, 2012

December in Austria

In Austria, the last month of the year - Dezember - is dominated by the folk customs and traditions of the coming of Christmas. In late November Christmas Markets pop up in many communities all over Austria. Common fare includes crafts and food items like Gl├╝hwein, Maroni (roasted chestnuts) or Gebrannte Mandeln caramelised, roasted almonds with a hint of cinnamon).  
Here is an overview of some popular events:

December 4 is St. Barbara′s Day. She is the patron saint of miners. People cut branches of cherry trees and put them into a jug of water. It is believed that if they cusp and bloom by Christmas, good luck and health will be forthcoming in the next year.

December 6 is St. Nicholas′ Day. This folk hero is the Austrian counterpart to Santa Claus, although he does not bring presents. He visits children′s houses and is sometimes accompanied by a Krampus (a furry, scary creature) that can punish the naughty children.  St Nicholas traditionally brings small gifts, like fruits, nuts and some sweets.

December 24. Shops close midday and people attend a night church serve where they sing familiar carols, such as Silent Night and then celebrate at home with food and presents.  

December 26 is Boxing Day and many people will travel distances to visit relatives and exchange gifts.

December 31 is Silvester,  the day of St. Sylvester. The common tradition is to have parties and fireworks at night that bring in the New Year.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turkey Then and Now

Yesterday's Turkey:
The turkey is known to be clan animal in some Native American cultures. Their feathers have been used in the traditional regalia of many tribes, particularly the feathered cloaks of eastern Woodland Indians like the Wampanoag and the feather headdresses of southern tribes like the Tuscarora and Catawba. The Turkey Dance, one of the most important social dances of the Caddo tribe, is associated with songs about war honors and tribal pride. Turkey dances are also found in other eastern tribes, such as the Lenape, Shawnee, and Seminoles.

In folklore, some legends portray the turkey as a wily, overly- proud trickster while others make the bird out to be shy and elusive. In parts of Mexico and the American Southwest, turkeys were domesticated and kept as food animals by some tribes, and their role in stories from these tribes is similar to chicken stories from Europe, with the birds mimicking the concerns and activities of human farmers. 

At the time of the first European contact wild turkeys were abundant because the and management skills of native people, which including burning forest undergrowth, provided a good habitat for wild turkeys (bison & elk, too). 

Ben Franklin nominated the wild turkey as a national symbol, citing the bird’s modesty, alertness, self- reliance and ability to live off the land. 

Today's Turkey: 
It's estimated that turkeys have 3,500 feathers at maturity. Some of the feathers are still used in the making of  Native American costumes and pen quills. 
Big Bird, of Sesame Street fame, is actually dressed in turkey feathers. Although he is not a turkey, his costume is made of nearly 4,000 white turkey feathers, which have been dyed bright yellow.
Turkey feather down has been used to make pillows.

More About Turkeys:
Only tom turkeys gobble.

Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.
Domesticated turkeys cannot fly.
Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour and can run 20 miles per hour.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paul Bunyan's Babe the Blue Ox

Paul Bunyan is an American folk legend. A North American lumberjack he was considered to be a giant man with tremendous strength and skills. And he was often accompanied by his animal friend, Babe the Blue Ox.

How Babe came to help Paul Bunyan:
One winter, when it was so cold that the snow turned blue, Paul Bunyan went out walking in the woods.  He heard a funny sound and looked down to see a tiny baby blue ox trying to hop about in the snow.

Paul Bunyan picked the ox up and brought it home. Warmed up by the fire, it was still as blue as the snow outside. Paul named him Babe the Blue Ox and he grew up to be very big.

Babe the Blue Ox helped out at Paul Bunyan's logging camp. Because he was strong enough to pull anything that had two ends, he was able to straighten out twisted logging roads. He also pulled the heavy tank wagon which was used to coat the newly-straightened lumber roads in the winter.

Here are some of the duo’s accomplishments
(according to legends): 
  •   The lumberjack was so fond of his four-legged companion that he formed the Great Lakes so that Babe had a large enough drinking hole.
  •  The 10,000 Lakes of Minnesota were made by the footprints Paul Bunyan and Babe left as they wandered blindly in a deep blizzard.
  • Paul Bunyan dug the Grand Canyon with an axe he dragged behind him as he walked with Babe.