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Country Cousin

Mistletoe...



Hi Folks!

Our hearts go out this Christmas season to the families of the 27 people killed in the tragic shootings in that kindergarten classroom in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14. Deaths of the 20 children is especially hard. It is only thanks to the heroism of the principal and teachers that more children were not killed.

Any time a child dies a hole is left in the family that loved it. But this tragic day also leaves a hole that will never heal in the hearts of the school and the entire community.

Grieving parents with other children at home must somehow get through Christmas this year and every year hereafter in a way that will not scar their surviving children.

It will be heart wrenching, but not impossible, for families who know there is a loving God, Who for reasons we cannot fathom chose to allow those innocents to come to Him now, rather than later. Those with faith understand that their children will be celebrating the Christ Child’s birthday in Heaven this year, along with the angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and the three kings. And all the while God the Father will be holding everyone in His loving embrace.

Families left behind on this earth behind must deal with the grief, the loss, the loneliness of an empty chair at the table, an empty bed, perhaps an empty house. Where will those who do not know and love God turn for comfort? May God have mercy on them, and open their eyes and their hearts to His love.

WHY?

Heard someone was raging against God, asking why He allowed the killings to happen, why He did not step into that classroom and stop the carnage.

God sadly replied that He was not allowed inside. He has been banned from schools.

ON ATHEISTS

Speaking of that, wonder why atheists are so adamant about keeping God out of schools, forbidding Christmas programs, etc.? Why do they get so upset about manger scene displays on public property?

If they truly don’t believe in Him, wouldn’t a manger scene to them be just like a scene from a fairy tale? But they do seem to take it seriously.

Isn’t telling a true atheist that God will be angry an awful lot like telling him that Santa’s not bringing him any presents this year?

ON THE SOAP BOX

DON’T JUMP TO GUN CONTROL


Naturally the tragic shootings have brought on a new rash of demands for gun control. Sadly, this time the emotional impact may be strong enough to make it happen, and that would be a tragedy for this entire nation.

Gee! Outlaw guns. What a great idea! Maybe we should outlaw heroin and cocaine too?

Do we ban cars after someone rams their vehicle into a school bus filled with children?

Would we consider banning airplanes if one crashed into a school?

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns is an old saying that’s still true. We’d be creating a whole new market for black market mobsters to milk for profits, while leaving good law abiding citizens defenseless.

There are measures we can and probably should take to prevent a repeat of this tragedy, but outlawing guns isn’t one of them.

We could install panic buttons in every classroom. We could install weapon detectors at entryways, like we do for court rooms. Or we could arm the teachers.

Consider two signs: Possession of weapons on these premises is prohibited or Caution! All personnel in this building are armed and well trained in use of their weapons. Any attempt to harm a child will be met with deadly force!

Which do you think would more likely deter a shooter?

Ever hear of a crazed gunman terrorizing a police station or an Army base?

Our nation’s Founding Fathers clearly understood the importance of keeping everyday people armed and able to defend themselves, whether against a crazed assailant, a determined murderer, or a tyrannical government.

Back in 1764 Thomas Jefferson, the most brilliant statesman our nation has ever produced, quoted 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria: Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

Jefferson and the other Colonial patriots felt so strongly about the right to keep and bear arms that they made it their second amendment to the Constitution, preceded only by the right to free speech and assembly. Without those first two amendments, the others wouldn’t mean much.

WINTER WONDERLAND

We’re expecting tons of snow by Thursday morning, Dec. 20, so we’ll probably have a White Christmas, provided that we have a Christmas.

Friday, Dec. 21, marks the official start of Winter, shortest day of the year. It’s also the day lots of folks think the world will end. Guess there isn’t much scientific basis for that, and fully expect the world to still be here when we wake up on Saturday morning. Must admit though, that God has enough reasons to be so mad at us that He’d like to clean house on this old Earth and start over. He did it at least once, and He sure can do it again if He wants to!

MISTLETOE TIME!

When our grandsons were small, and even after they grew tall, a favorite part of Christmas at Grandma’s house was getting caught under the kissing ball!

The mistletoe ball hung in the middle of the arch between living room and dining room/kitchen. Anyone wanting to eat had to pass under it.

Boys are often embarrassed about getting hugged and kissed, but they loved to tease about the mistletoe. It became a game. To get a Christmas kiss from my favorite boys, I had to catch them under the kissing ball. I strongly suspect if any one of them didn’t get caught, he’d have been disappointed.

Anyway, ancient Greeks are said to have used mistletoe as an aphrodisiac, and it was believed to cure many ailments. In Druid days, the plant was hung over doorways to keep witches out and protect the home fires and lightning strikes.

THE CONNECTION?

So why and how did the kissing tradition get connected with mistletoe? And how did either of them get connected with Christmas?

According to Norse legend, Frigga, goddess of love and beauty, was the mother of Balder, best loved of all the gods, god of the summer sun. If Balder were to die, all life on earth would die.

The evil god, Loki, had threatened to kill Balder. To prevent this, Frigga went to air, fire, water, animals and plants obtaining promises that they would not harm her son. All agreed. There was nothing on earth or under the earth that would injure Balder. But there was one plant, mistletoe, ironically the plant sacred to Frigga, that grew neither on nor in the earth, but high in oak and apple trees, so she missed it.

Loki figured out the loophole in Frigga’s plans and made an arrow from mistletoe. Then he gave it to Balder’s brother, Holder, the blind god of winter, and guided Holder’s aim at Balder’s heart. The sun god fell dead.

The legend says all things on earth and in heaven wept, but Frigga wept the most. Her tears turned into the pearly white beads on the mistletoe plant. All the elements tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally resurrected, thanks to Frigga, and light, heat and love returned to the earth. A decree went out that whoever should stand under the mistletoe would not be harmed, only be given a kiss as a token of love. To refuse such a kiss would be a high insult indeed!

WAS IT A MESSAGE?

Catch the connection? Son of a god (the sun god, at that) dies at the hands of an evil god (devil?) and is resurrected, restoring light, love and life to the earth. Coincidence? Could that legend have been a message from our Creator to a pagan people, foretelling the life and death and resurrection of Christ in terms they could understand, preparing them to receive the True Word when it came to them?

Eventually the Norse and the Druids became Christians and mistletoe became a symbol of Christmas.

In Victorian times the kissing ball became popular. Among traditions were that a girl caught under the mistletoe cannot refuse to be kissed, any girl not kissed under the mistletoe during Christmas season surely would not marry during the coming year, and if the Christmas mistletoe was not burned on Twelfth Night (Jan. 6), any boy kissed under it that year would never marry.

HOW TO MAKE A KISSING BALL

Without a whole lot of work you can make a kissing ball for your home. If you can’t find mistletoe, hang a star from it and make a wish, say a prayer or kiss someone whenever you walk under it.

You need a 3-inch styrofoam ball, some wire to hang it with, a hot glue gun, ribbons for trim, an assortment of fresh evergreen bough tips, and that sprig of mistletoe.

The cutoff base of your Christmas tree may supply the greenery. Clip 3 to 4-inch tips with sturdy woody stems so you can push them into the Styrofoam ball. Insert a piece of heavy gauge wire through the center of the ball and use pliers to bend the ends to create loops and prevent it from pulling back through the ball. Put hot glue into the hole at each end if you’ll feel more comfortable. Insert evergreen tips quite close together by gently pushing stems into the Styrofoam. Try to keep tips about the same length to retain a uniform shape and size. Cut several 6- to 8-inch sections of ribbon, fold in half and wrap the wire of a floral pick around the base, or use bread ties and toothpicks. Insert the ribbon-trimmed picks into the Styrofoam ball at intervals until you get the right look. Tiny red or gold balls, cones, sprays of berries, or other little ornaments can be added. Add the mistletoe sprig to the bottom, perhaps with some ribbon streamers. Hang in a strategic spot and you’re done.

Let the kissing begin!

COOKIN’ TIME

COOKED EGGNOG

Have you given up making eggnog because of worries about the raw eggs? Worry no more! This recipe uses only yolks whipped until thick and then cooked into a custard. Whites can go for divinity candy, angel food cake, coconut macaroons, or other meringue type goodies.

4 cups milk

1 1/3 cups sugar

12 large egg yolks

dash salt

1/2 cup bourbon, brandy and/or rum (optional)

2 cup chilled heavy cream, divided

Grated nutmeg or cinnamon, for garnish

Heat milk in large saucepan or double boiler until it almost starts to simmer, probably 1 to 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until thick and lemon colored. Whisking constantly, pour the hot milk into yolks in a slow and steady stream. Return mixture to the pan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thick enough to coat back of a metal spoon, 20 to 25 minutes; do not let it simmer. A double boiler works well. Strain into a bowl, let cool a bit and stir in one cup of the cream and your liquor of choice, if desired. While it continues to cool to no more than room temperature, whip the remaining cup of cream until soft peaks form and fold into the cooled egg mixture. Cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Sprinkle each serving with nutmeg and/or cinnamon if desired.

CRANBERRY PECAN BREAD

Friend Deanie shared this recipe for a luscious and beautiful holiday bread. Recipe makes three full size loaves, so you can be generous.

1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

3 cups flour, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup whole milk

Buttery flavored cooking spray

Glaze:

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1/2 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three standard loaf pans with buttery flavored cooking spray. Dust with flour and tap out excess. Put frozen cranberries into food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Mix cranberries and chopped pecans with a quarter cup of the flour. Mix remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Beat the sugar and oil together, beat in the eggs one at a time, add the extracts and then alternately add the flour and milk in three parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the cranberry/nut mixture. Divide evenly into the loaf pans and bake 55 to 6 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Beat the glaze ingredients together and spread or brush equal amounts onto each loaf.

SOFT MACAROONS

1 pint orange sherbet, softened

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 package (18 1/2 ounces) white cake mix

6 cups flaked coconut

In large mixing bowl combine sherbet, almond extract and dry cake mix. Mix well, then stir in the coconut. Drop by tablespoonsful two inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes about six dozen. (Try using pineapple sherbet and cherry chip cake mix, too.)

Thought for the Week: May our hearts be opened to the wonder of the Gift God sent on that first Christmas Eve. May our homes and hearts glow with the love and joy of Christmas. May Peace walk with us during our waking hours and fill our dreams at night. May Christmas Eve find all the right batteries on hand; all the parts in every box, unbroken, and all the gifts exactly what they wanted, in the right size and color, too! God Bless Us, one and all! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

(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 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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