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Country Cousin

Issue Date: December 5, 2019

Shirley Prudhomme

Jolly old St. Nicholas"

December blew in Saturday night, and brought along some really, really serious snow"Beautiful, deep, sparkling snow that clung to trees and bushes and decked out TIMESland like a Christmas card. Breathtaking if you didn't need to go out in it, and equally breathtaking because of the cold if you did.

Many country roadsides and city yards were still wearing their snowy garb at mid-week, and unfortunately, so was the pavement under it on many country roads and city streets. It's been a time to drive carefully or suffer the consequences.

PRE-CHRISTMAS EVENTS

Wasn't able to list the many great holiday celebrations and events that were held last weekend, including at least one living Nativity event, and more are coming up in the very near future. Watch for ads and posters. There are many, many special events, sales, celebrations, cookie exchanges and more to look forward to, including the Vintage Snowmobile Show at Middle Inlet on Saturday, Dec. 7, the Pound Parade of Lights and chili dump social on Dec. 14, and Christmas decorations to be enjoyed everywhere.

REASON FOR THE SEASON

So much that has to do with celebrating the Christmas season has actually nothing to do with celebrating the reason for the season - the birth of Jesus Christ in that stable behind the inn in Bethlehem so many centuries ago.

An invitation I hope to take advantage of comes from Grace Lutheran Church in Wausaukee. They have invited everyone to visit Virtual Bethlehem for a walking tour of the Village of Bethlehem as it was at the time Christmas began over 2,000 years ago.

There's no cost. There will be snacks and warm drinks offered at the local inn, guided tours, a chance to warm yourself at a fire with the Roman soldiers, barter at the town market, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the beloved Baby Jesus and His family.

Virtual Bethlehem will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14 from 4 to 7 p.m.

JOLLY OLD ST. NICHOLAS

Most of us expect Santa Claus to visit our homes on Christmas Eve, but some of us here in America and lots of folks in Europe also look forward to a visit (and gifts) from St. Nicholas on the night of Dec. 5, the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, which is Dec. 6.

St. Nicholas, a real man, was the forerunner of the mythical figure we now see as Santa Claus. He lived in what is now the southern coast of Turkey, not at the North Pole, and became Bishop of Myrna.

His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering, and dedicated his life to serving God.

Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. He was exiled and imprisoned for his faith, and then was released in time to attend the Council of Nicaea in 325. He died on Dec. 6, 343 in Myrna, and we celebrate the day of his death, the day he went to Heaven.

St. Nicholas died, but his legend lived on. Through the centuries many stories have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds, stories that help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

The mythical St. Nicholas arose from those stories that grew into legends. St. Nicholas, even in legend, was not a little fat man in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. He was a kindly bishop who traveled on a white horse, and in real life gave secretly to those in need.

He was so venerated in Europe that the first Europeans to arrive in the New World brought St. Nicholas with them. Vikings dedicated a cathedral to him in Greenland. On his first voyage, Columbus named a Haitian port for St. Nicholas on December 6, 1492. In Florida, Spaniards named an early settlement St. Nicholas Ferry. That settlement is now known as Jacksonville.

However, Christmas celebrations in Europe began taking on a Pagan atmosphere, and during the 16th century Protestant Reformation, both reformers and counter-reformers tried to stamp out St. Nicholas-related customs. Their attempts were largely unsuccessful, except in England where some of the religious folk traditions were permanently altered. Henry VIII outlawed St. Nicholas in England in 1542, during the Protestant reformation and Puritans there and in America did particularly celebrate Christmas, and in fact tried to outlaw it in 1643 by requiring shops to be open and churches to be close.

None of that worked in the long run. Because the common people so loved St. Nicholas, he survived on the European continent, and people continued to place nuts, apples, and sweets in shoes left beside beds, on windowsills, or before the hearth for him to fill. The story also went that if you had not been good, your shoes, boots or stockings would be filled with coal instead of treats.

In America, connection of Santa Claus to Christmas Eve is fairly new. It didn't actually start until 1821, with the arrival of a new children's book, "Children's Friend," that featured Santa Claus arriving from the north in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer. Then, two years later, what is now probably the best-known poem in America, "The Night Before Christmas," became widely popular.

Ironically, scholars cannot agree on who wrote that beloved poem, although it generally was credited to Clement Clark Moore, a professor of Biblical languages at New York's Episcopal Theological Seminary. Others attribute it to Henry Livingston, and believe it was written in 1808 or 1809, and still others have other ideas.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING

Whether Santa Claus or St. Nicholas comes to your house, Christmas is coming. Advent, the four weeks that Christians around the world are supposed to spend preparing their homes and their souls for the coming of Christmas, began on Sunday, Dec. 1, and will continue until Sunday, Dec.22, the Sunday before Christmas.

Let's all encourage our kids to think a little bit more about what they will give for Christmas than about what they will get. Encourage them to make gifts for people they love, and to do something special for Jesus, too - perhaps being extra helpful to Mom and Dad or a neighbor, perhaps being extra good at school, perhaps saying an extra prayer each day, or dropping some coins into a Salvation Army kettle to help the poor. That's what St. Nicholas would have done!

Consider having a 5-candle family Advent wreath. Light a new candle for each of the four Sundays of Advent, and and the fifth and final candle on Christmas Eve. Tell a little bit of the nativity story with each candle that you light. That is how human traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE

Speaking of generations, but not of Christmas, in the year 2020 America celebrates the centennial of the ratification 19th Amendment to the constitution of the United States of America - the amendment that gave women the right to vote.

On Monday, Nov. 25, in preparation for that celebration, President Donald Trump signed the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act into law. Thanks to that law, the US treasury will be minting 400,000 commemorative silver dollars designed to honor the history of the women's suffrage movement and celebrate the heroes who fought for women's right to vote".women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells. President Trump promised proceeds from sale of these coins will go to the Smithsonian's Women's History Initiative.

The coin is to be minted at no cost to U.S.taxpayers, and proceeds from sales are intended to support the Women's Suffrage Commission and the Smithsonian Women's History Project.

Gaining women's suffrage was a process that started at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 and came to fruition 72 years later, in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Wyoming was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment. That happened in 1869 - 150 years ago. According to Rep. Liz Chaney, Wyoming was the first place on earth to give women the right to vote. It took many of the other states another 50 years to follow Wyoming's lead, but in 1893 New Zealand became the first known nation on earth to allow women to vote. Historians tell us that even in Sparta, where women had a great deal of influence, they were not allowed to vote.

CELEBRATE THE SIGNING

Among those with President Trump for signing of the commemorative coin law were Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative Liz Cheney, of Wyoming.

"Wyoming was the first place on Earth where women had the right to vote," Cheney said. "(Women) have been voting 150 years in Wyoming."

The bill was introduced by Sen. Blackburn in the Senate, where it passed in June without a singe dissenting vote, and by Rep. Cheney in the house, where it eventually was passed with over 300 sponsors.

"This was a project that so many women have worked on," Blackburn said. "Elise Stefanik was the lead sponsor in the House.  Liz Cheney helped shepherd it through the House.  Kirsten Gillibrand was the lead Democrat co-sponsor in the Senate.  We passed it out of the Senate with every single senator voting for it in June""

She added, "" one of the things that's most noteworthy is that we have worked together in such a bipartisan way to celebrate women's suffrage and the right to vote in this country."

Penny Nance, with Concerned Women for America, agreed with the importance of setting aside differences, and urged: "This has been just a beautiful picture of bipartisanship that I think many in Congress could take a page from.  Women of every ilk were able to come together and actually get something done.  So we hope Congress does that same."

Amen to that.

ON THE SOAP BOX

END SUFFRAGE

Naturally, CNN and other mainstream media sources had to find a reason to criticize President Trump even for signing the commemorative coin act into law, so they said little else about it except to claim that he tried to take credit for the law. If you want to find out what he really said instead of soaking up what the propaganda mills want you to believe, go on line and read the transcript of the signing ceremony for yourself. President Trump did say his administration gets things done, and that's a fact, but he did not take credit for it - he passed out credit to everyone else involved.

Not long ago, one of my favorite Fox News show hosts went around to some of this nation's big-league college campuses with a petition to end women's suffrage. Lots of the educated people who are enrolled as students on those liberal campuses were eager to sign, and took up the chant that women's suffrage has to end.

They didn't really want to end women's right to vote - they just didn't understand the term "suffrage." Apparently they had never heard of the heroic struggles of Susan B. Anthony and her friends and had absolutely no idea that women's suffrage has absolutely nothing to do with women suffering.

These were young adults who supposedly passed history and/or civics courses to get their high school diplomas and passed tests to get accepted into college. Scary to think that in less than four short years lots of them will become teachers of the next generation!

Maybe educators all over this land - and the school boards who supervise them - should take a close look at just what American students are being taught about American history!

There is no longer any question that women deserve equal rights - but the women's rights movement of today is busy demanding more than equal rights, and in doing so they have destroyed many of the privileges women once enjoyed.

That includes the privilege of focusing primarily on being a nurturing wife and mother, which is the highest and most satisfying calling a woman can have!

HOW'S THAT AGAIN?

Just came across a 10-year-old copy of the wonderful old Porcupine Press. The folks who put it together had a marvelous - and totally irreverent - sense of humor. Don't look for political correctness. You won't find it in this publication.

Have always loved typos that the gremlins sneak into printed publications, and love finding wordings that sound okay until you see it in print. Apparently the Porcupine Press editor and staff did too.

Here are a few headlines they came up with:

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

Legislators Tax Brains To Cut Deficit

Astronaut Takes Blame For Gas In Spacecraft

Half of U.S. Schools Require Some Study For Graduation

Prostitutes Appeal to Pope

Ski Areas Closed Due to Snow

Utah Girl Does Well In Dog Shows

Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Sometimes the text in news articles doesn't come out quite right either, for example:

"If the baby doesn't thrive on fresh milk, it should be boiled."

"Cost for dinner tickets is $10. Children under five served free."

"Miss Penneway is in the hospital this morning, after having been bitten by a spider in a bathing suit."

"Mr. and Mrs. Ron Kroeker have returned from a week's fighting trip in Wisconsin."

"Someone raised the question of adherence to civil air regulations which limit the flight time of pilots and crows to eight hours a day."

"The Chief is inclined to believe that a crossed wife might be the cause of the fire."

"The union is seeking a 10% wage increase plus improved benefits and double time for any day in which the workers work."

COOKIN' TIME

Thanksgiving is over, and the time for Christmas treats has begun. Let's eat, drink and be merry while we can, and not think about dieting until January rolls around!

EASY MINTY BROWNIES

This recipe is so easy you don't even really need a recipe, but here it is anyway

1 box brownie mix (or your own favorite recipe)

1 bag mint chocolate chips, such as Andes

Bake brownies according to package directions or follow your own recipe. Be sure not to over-bake them. As soon as they're done take the pan out of the oven and scatter chips as evenly as you can over the top. Return to oven for about a minute, then take it out and swirl the melted chips around with a knife util they don't look like chips any more. Once cool, cut into serving pieces. If you're a chocolate mint lover, immediately hide them from yourself so there are some left for everybody else.

SPECULAAS SPICE MIX

This mix is used for a number of European Christmas/St. Nicholas Day goodies. You can buy this spice mixture if you want, and pumpkin pie spice with just a bit of white pepper added makes a suitable but not spectacular replacement.

5 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

Measure all the spices into a small bowl and stir well to mix. A wire whisk works well. Store in a tightly covered glass container, preferably kept in a cool, dry place.

DUTCH KRUIDNOOTJES

Otherwise known as "Spice Nuts" or "Kruidnoten" these little brown morsels are traditional St. Nicholas Day cookies in Holland. If you can't find self rising flour mix 1 cup all purpose flour, or better still, cake flour, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt and then use slightly more liquid)

1 cup self rising flour

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 tablespoon speculaas spice mix (or 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice mix and a pinch of white pepper)

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Wash hands well, or put on surgical gloves. Put flour in a bowl and mix in he spices and brown sugar. Make a well in center and add the butter and nearly two tablespoon of milk and knead together with hands until it gets crumbly, and then until it forms into a dough. If necessary add a little more milk. Heat oven to 345 degrees. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Form the cookies into sort of oblong balls about the size and shape of brazil nuts and place on the baking sheet. Recipe should make 50 to 60 little cookies. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool before eating. Dust with powdered sugar, or not,as you prefer.

CHRISTMAS TREE CHEESE SPREAD

This is a lovely little addition to any holiday snack table. Really, really good to eat as well as to look at.

1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, softened to room temp.

1 (8 ounce) tub vegetable cream cheese

2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix

3 green onions, thinly sliced and chopped

1 red pepper, finely diced (reserve some for garnish)

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Handful fresh curly parsley, finely chopped

For garnish:

1 slice star fruit or cut a star from a yellow pepper and slice the rest into sticks to serve on the snack tray

Pomegranate seeds or bits of red bell pepper

Beat together the cream cheeses and ranch dressing mix. Stir in the diced onions, red pepper and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle half the parsley on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Top with the cheese ball mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the parsley onto the cheese ball top and sides and fold the plastic wrap around it. Gently shape into a nice fat Christmas Tree shape and stand upright on a saucer. If it won't hold it's shape, refrigerate for an hour and shape again. Let sit for at least 24 hours to let the flavors blend. just before serving time, take out of fridge, put on serving plate, and put the star fruit slice on top. Decorate sides with pomegranate seeds or red bell pepper bits. Surround tree with crackers and celery sticks.

Thought for the week: Dear Lord, during this Advent season let us not get so busy with cleaning and decorating our homes and buying and wrapping gifts that we forget about preparing our souls for You. Help those of us who believe in You to become kinder, gentler people who set an example that will lead others to worship You as that gentle infant in the manger in Bethlehem and as the almighty God who rules Heaven and Earth, who showers us with gifts and asks only our love in return. Amen.

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-291-9002 or by e-mail to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo.com.)


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