Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New and improved? Moving temporarily

Update 12/28/2006: I'm getting frustrated. I can't figure out why we can't post new post on this site and so far I've got no response from Blogger to try to figure it out.

We were in the midst of upgrading to the new version of Blogger when we fell off the rails somehow. So, until we can make new posts here, I've created a new blog, at least temporarily.

For some strange reason, I can edit things on this sight, I just can't publish new posts. If anyone knows how to correct that problem, I'd appreciate an e-mail.

But until we can get that figured out, I'm moving out -- or at least going around the problem. The first post on the new site is about the time I met President Ford, which I posted on the Capital Press website earlier this week (since I couldn't post it here). So, that's what's new, or recycled here. Until we can get our problem fixed, look for new posts at http://blogriculturetoo.blogspot.com/.

Original post: We're making some upgrades here at Blogriculture. We're updating our template to add some new features and functionality, but that means some things may be moving around, disappearing or whatever. So be patient with is during this process.

In this conversion process we are running into some problems. For some reason now, I can't create new posts and get them to save. Our executive editor, Elaine Shein, is having difficulty logging in at all. Once we get this sorted out, we'll make some refinements to the template and some new posts.

Update 12/27/06: I did make a post that I intented to put on here on the Capital Press website. You can find it here. It's about the death of former-President Gerald Ford, who I met a few years ago while living in Southern California. We still can't create new posts, but can edit existing ones.

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Was Santa good to everyone out there?

While I might be off line currently from posting my own blogs, just a heads up that we are posting the last part of our climate change series this week online at www.capitalpress.com. The special section includes a look at where do we go from here as governments, companies and individuals in dealing with climate change, and gives some practical tips on how to be more energy efficient. We look forward to any feedback.


I'll hijack a bit more space on Gary's last blog to add a blog I was attempting to post yesterday, still in the Christmas spirit, sharing Christmas from another perspective.

Gathered around a table with mostly strangers during Christmas day in the Portland area, I was soon questioned how did I celebrate Christmas in the past. What is it like to celebrate it in a rural area, or in a different culture?

Living now about a thousand miles away from my parents’ farm, I needed to pause and think how does one capture in a few words so many generations of traditions, so many years of learning from relatives and neighbors these traditions that range from the foods we ate to the carols we sang in another language.

I thought about how as children we grew up rather confused. There was the English version of Christmas on December 25, which seemed more and more commercialized and centered around Santa Claus. And then there was our version that followed the Julian calendar and had more ties to religion and even the land and crops we produced.

Our Christmas fell on Jan. 7, with Christmas Eve being one the holiest times for us but also the one where we or other people opened our homes up to relatives, friends and neighbors. We would gather for a feast of 12 meatless traditional dishes, some of which only are served during Christmas time.

“Twelve dishes!” one of the people said yesterday, rather surprised. “What ever could they be?”

It took a short while for me to recall all the dishes. After I moved away from the farm decades ago, it was tougher with my job to get time off to travel back and prepare the foods and celebrate with my family. I invited my parents to sometimes visit me and I would try to create as many of the dishes as I could, but it has been a long time since I have enjoyed the whole 12.

First, there is the dish with boiled wheat, honey, poppy seed and sometimes walnuts or pecans. Very sweet, and special because it is only to be made for Christmas as the opening dish.

Then there is the beet soup, mixed with other vegetables. Then two different types of fish: baked or fried, and pickled. There are cabbage rolls, pyrogies, cooked beans, and a cabbage and peas dish. A beets and mushroom dish. A mixture of dried fruits that are soaked overnight, simmered and sweetened. And of course, a special kind of bread with fillings like poppyseed and prunes.

There were other traditions associated with the meal. After we finished feeding and bedding down our cattle with dry straw for the night, we brought in some hay that my father placed under the kitchen table to remind us of the manger in Bethlehem.

A sheaf or vase of wheat was put on the center of the table to represent the crop my family had harvested that season. And one of us kids was always sent to the window to spot the first star in the eastern sky — representing the Three Wise Men — before we could begin the meal. Sometimes the Northern Lights would dance around that star, almost like Heaven was celebrating with us.

We set empty plates at the corners of the table for grandparents who have passed away, to show they are always remembered and welcomed.

We’d exchange Christmas greetings, say a prayer, and we’d sing a Christmas carol in the language my grandparents and great-grandparents had brought with them from overseas. And then the supper would begin.

There were times where occasionally carolers came to our door Christmas Eve, and they would always be welcomed as they blessed our homes. As I grew older, my friends and I were among the carolers who traveled on snow-covered roads to farms scattered for so many miles around.

Often the people we visited would join us in the carols, and for a few moments in each home it was magical. These weren’t commercial Christmas carols about shopping or about Santa and reindeer, nor were they songs that are played on the radio or found on any bestseller sales lists during the holidays, but rather these were carols with deep roots stretching back several generations.

So here I now sat, with these kind strangers who had welcomed us into their homes in Oregon since we were so far away from our families at this time of year. They asked questions, and I contemplated how best to describe what Christmas was like in the past.

I gazed at the various foods — from quiche to smoked salmon — people had brought for the meal, the lit Christmas tree, the pile of wrapping from opened presents and the roaring fireplace that had not long before had a row of stockings hanging in front.

Yes, this year’s Christmas was different from those that had been held on our farm so many years ago.

Every family and culture has its own traditions, no matter what part of the world you live in and the language you speak. What makes Christmas — or whatever other holy day is being celebrated — is family and friends being together to celebrate these times and create memories and traditions for the future.

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1 comment:

threecollie said...

Elaine, your description of your farm home Christmas is truly beautiful! I love the idea of the plates for the grandparents. I miss mine and keep photos of them in the kitchen around the stove, but places at the table for them would be a wonderful remembrance. Thanks for sharing your holiday memories.

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