Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Outlander Holiday Traditions

Happy Holidays from OUTLANDER HOMEPAGE Originals 

Celtic Christmas and Yule tide Origins....
According to the longstanding theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations prevalent among regional populations.

One such example is the Celtic 'Alban Arthuan' a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st, the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun.
Although a celebration of the Son's birth replaced that of the Sun's, still a number of Christmas - tide traditions - including those the ancient Celts practiced - remain today.

As we look at the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among pagan Celts, but also of hospitality - it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illness and even facilitated a truce between enemies); Fire and Light (most notably the Yule log or candle placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door - to - door processions, from wassailing (A Medieval southern English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year. Traditionally done on New Years Eve) to Wren Hunts. (Irish: La an Dreoilin, December 26th, St Stephens Day.)

Each of the seven nations possesses it's own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identity shape these practices as well.

Yule Log:
Among the Pagan traditions that have become part of Christmas is burning the yule log. This custom springs from many different cultures, but in all of them its significance seems to lie in the iul or "wheel" of the year. The Druids would bless a log and keep it burning for 12 days during the winter solstice; part of the log was kept for the following year, when it would be used to light the new yule log.

The ever-present threat of hunger was triumphantly overcome with a feast, and in addition to the significant fare mentioned above, all manner of food would be served at Christmas. The most popular main course was goose, but many other meats were also served. Turkey was first brought to Europe from the Americas around 1520 (its earliest known consumption in England is 1541), and because it was inexpensive and quick to fatten, it rose in popularity as a Christmas feast food.

Humble (or 'umble) pie was made from the "humbles" of a deer -- the heart, liver, brains and so forth. While the lords and ladies ate the choice cuts, the servants baked the humbles into a pie (which of course made them go further as a source of food).

This appears to be the origin of the phrase, "to eat humble pie." By the seventeenth century Humble Pie had become a trademark Christmas food, as evidenced when it was outlawed along with other Christmas traditions by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan government.

The Christmas pudding of Victorian and modern times evolved from the medieval dish of frumenty -- a spicy, wheat-based dessert. Many other desserts were made as welcome treats for children and adults alike.

Christmas may owe its popularity in medieval times to liturgical dramas and mysteries presented in the church. The most popular subject for such dramas and tropes was the Holy Family, particularly the Nativity. As interest in the Nativity grew, so did Christmas as a holiday.

Carols, though very popular in the later middle ages, were at first frowned on by the Church. But, as with most popular entertainment, they eventually evolved to a suitable format, and the Church relented.

The Twelve Days of Christmas may have been a game set to music. One person would sing a stanza, and another would add his own lines to the song, repeating the first person's verse. Another version states it was a Catholic "catechism memory song" that helped oppressed Catholics in England during the Reformation remember facts about God and Jesus at a time when practicing their faith could get them killed.

New Years and Why is Hogmanay so important to the Scots:
Although some of these traditions are are ancient, Hogmanay celebrations were elevated in importance after the banning of Christmas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647. The ban was lifted after Cromwell's downfall in 1660. But in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations - as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583. After the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland. In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.

But the impulse to party, and to put the products of Scotland's famous distilleries to good use, could not be repressed. In effect, Hogmanay became Scotland's main outlet for the mid-winter impulse to chase away the darkness with light, warmth and festivities.

Cast Traditions :
Every family has traditions that they enjoy sharing around the Holidays, some passed down for generations.

We asked a few of The OUTLANDER CAST and CREW follows, what their Holidays are like, during Christmas and New Years. We received responses that range from, when they were young from their childhood homes, to what they do now while they are out with friends or with families of their own.

Richard Kahan - Season two writer: "We have a refillable Advent calendar that we load up with vegan chocolates from Sjaaks in Northern California. One of my favorite family traditions!"

Gillebride MacMillan - Gwyllyn the Bard: "Christmas was a time for family gatherings. New Years time was also always a big event when I was growing up. We would go 'First footing' the neighbours to wish them a Happy New Year or as we would say in South Uist where I am from, "Bliadhn' Ùr Mhath". Traditionally you would take a peat for the fire and whisky with you to bring in the New Year. The youngsters of the area would go from house reciting a New Year poem in Gaelic and they would get treats on their journey. Happy days!"

Simon Meacock - Hugh Munro: I guess I don't really have any traditions for Xmas, as such as it's changed for me over recent years with the birth of my daughter. The thing I enjoy most now is getting up with my her VERY early and watching the joy with which she opens her presents. That is priceless to me.

Nell Rose Hudson- Leery MacKenzie: Holiday tradition of mine?? hmmm....I discovered white russians in New York the christmas just after I turned 21 (so was only just allowed to drink there). Now I have to have one (and by one I mean several) every year!

Thank you to all who responded from the cast as busy as they are. We broke up our original Holiday post, into 2 separate blog posts due to its length.. We have a guest Q&A and a complete interview with Outlander Kitchen, coming soon.

From Outlander Kitchen:
No Holiday would be complete without a cocktail recipe from OUTLANDER KITCHEN, for a delicious traditional Scottish drink to try while celebrating with your families.... Outlander Kitchen link for website

To purchase The official Outlander Companion CookBook from Outlander Kitchen

A story with that recipe from Outlander Kitchen: inspired by episode 103

We last left Claire deposited in Davie Beaton’s old closet, quietly shedding a few tears while her erstwhile saviour, the tinkerer, bounced back to Inverness in his little wagon without her.

It’s that last scene of Claire, left alone in the dungeon of despair, that convinced me we need ALCOHOL for Episode 3 of Outlander on STARZ: The Way Out.

Put in the same position, I’m sure most of us would welcome a liquid escape – although I think we’ll put a two glass limit on the Atholl Brose – did you see the way Claire destroyed that Rhenish last Saturday?!

Be careful, lass. Lips loosened by drink generally result in some sort of mishap.

We’re headed back into the Great Hall this week, to enjoy the sounds and story stylings of Gwyllyn the Bard, storyteller extraordinaire.

I like to picture myself in each scene while I’m watching — not in the middle of the action, mind — but maybe perched next to one of those huge hearths, with the fire warming my back? Give me Gwyllyn, his harp, and a wee dram of the Atholl Brose and I’d be happy as a bannock soaked in butter and honey.

Given that Atholl Brose is boozy, sweet and creamy, the most obvious comparison is Bailey’s Irish Cream. I don’t suggest you make that comparison with a Scot in the room, though. Atholl Brose has a long, colourful history – including the quelling of a rebellion – stretching back to 1475; Irish Cream was first available for purchase in 1974.

With a five hundred year head start, I think it’s safe to give the Scots bragging rights here.

Older recipes call for raw egg whites, but I’ve left those out due to food-safety concerns. Mrs. Fitz, Jenny and other 18th C keepers of chickens didn’t have the salmonella and other problems that plague our modern food distribution system.

Even after three years of Outlander Kitchen, I’m still occasionally surprised by how delicious a hundreds-year old combination of basic ingredients can be, even to my modern taste buds. This recipe is one of those surprises.

If you drink – even if you’re not overly fond of whisky – you want to make this. Not one hundred percent convinced? Make a half recipe. Sip it chilled, mix it into Coke on ice. Heck, I bet it makes a damn fine Highland Coffee.

Atholl Brose is at its best when given a few days to mature in the fridge, but it’s still delicious on the day it’s made. If you want to be sipping on Saturday evening, leave the oats to soak overnight Friday, then mix everything together on Saturday morning and leave it in the fridge until just before the show starts.

Atholl Brose

Sweet, creamy and delicious, Atholl Brose is a wonderful after-dinner digestif, and makes the perfect accompaniment to tales told by Gwyllyn the Bard in the Great Hall.

Yield: about 2 Cups
Steel-cut or Rolled Oats – 1 Cup
Whisky – 1 Cup (see notes)
Honey – 2 Tble
Coffee, Table, Light or Single Cream (18% fat) – ½ Cup

Soak oats in 2 cups of lukewarm water overnight.

Drain oats in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Squeeze the oats in the cloth to extract all liquid. Discard oats.

Mix 1 cup of strained oat milk with whisky in a large bowl. Gently whisk in honey, until dissolved. Add cream and stir.

Store, covered, in a pitcher in the fridge for up to 1 week. It gets even better on the 2nd or 3rd day, once flavours have had a chance to meld.

Serve chilled or over ice.

Slàinte Mhath! (Good Health)

A high-priced single malt is not necessary for this recipe. A mid-priced blend is the perfect choice for a smooth end result.
If you decide to go the single malt route, I suggest staying away from peat/smoke, as it overpowers the sweetness of the honey and the richness of the cream. Stick to a milder whisky, such as Glen Morangie, Old Pulteney, or The Macallan.
Dairy free? Skip the cream! I tasted my mixture before I added the cream, and it was delicious, even without that 18% fat. To get a slightly “creamier” oat milk, run the oats and their soaking water through a blender before straining.
Atholl Brose is also the less common name for the Scottish dessert, Cranachan…just to confuse things a wee bit.

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur.... 

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