Most people who’ve been reading me or who’ve known me for a while know this: but my house is a bit of a zoo. I do wildlife rescue and rehab, I also work on occasion with some rather unusual re-wilding and behavior cases: won’t get into all the “Don’t do it” rants, here, but there are quite a few.
Of course, most are familiar with Ms. Fred here, and her brother, Ratatoskr. (He was the little baby with the dental malocclusion, who sadly, didn’t make it.)
Fred frequently appears in my various feeds. She’s named after a character on a spin off series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel. Wild animal babies typically do not wind up failed fosters and there is in fact, a whole process that goes into raising them and setting them free again. Again, no “Don’t do it” rant. But don’t. (It is VERY hard not to do the PSAs.)
I also have a herd of cats, and at any given point may or may not have a passel of wild animal babies of various types: each spring, I get many calls, emails and otherwise, “Hey, I found X baby animal/babies what do I doooooo?” And, I either help talk them through it or, they discover the fact that I have tremendously fractured sleep is mighty useful in raising little wild things- because often, you’ve got to be up feeding them every two hours or so, depending on what said wild little thing is. I also currently only have one dog, but he’s a bit of an asshole. Well suited to the rest of us, to be sure. Most of my cats have missing or extra parts. But anyway.
This is a story about a pig-
And a fun little history-culture lesson.
For a very long time, I had my heart just set on a pig. Frankly, I wanted one of those feral hog babies- but, one day, Nikki hits me up and she says,
“Hey, I found a guy, he’s got some unexpected pot belly babies. Doing a little road trip, can I pick one up for you?”
Of course, I said, absolutely, and asked for a little black runt pig. My original intent was to call him Ganon. (If you’re new, you’re probably getting the idea that I’m a bit of a geek. Guilty.)
Though she seems so tiny in these: trust me, my gal got bigger and is getting bigger. They all do- for about five years. “Mini” is a very relative term, particularly when dealing with in respect to pigs- who can in fact, typically weighs anywhere from 300-700 pounds (140 and 300 kilograms) “Mini” pigs range anywhere from 75-300 pounds (35 and 136 kilograms). They are also insanely smart, sensitive animals and a huge responsibility. If you’ve ever had an interest, your VERY best source for information on this is The American Mini Pig Association. May I also suggest Pre-Loved Pigs? While the AMPA does have a list of ethical breeders, far too many of these babies wind up in shelters and rescue because people do not research them first. I am not sure of resources for those not in the states, I’m sorry.
Long story short: I was still going to call her Ganon, but her personality just didn’t fit the name. So, she became Soleil de Squeal. Easily, hands down, the best and the biggest asshole of a pet I’ve ever loved. I adore her.
What does my pig have to do with honoring ancestral tradition?
Not much, actually. I’d love to say that it does, but truthfully, ages ago I saw an article with this video- and was obsessed with having a pig, ever since. I researched and read, until one day, I got one. Lol That’s pretty much that.
But, I think looking at my name, most can probably guess- Scandinavia. Norway, to be exact and if you are really all that interested in that and also, naming conventions, Dennis Haarsager wrote a fascinating article on this topic in 1987. Like most people: I’m a bit of an ancestral hodge podge. When I met my partner, he was vaguely aware of certain elements of his own heritage: but, not as familiar as he wanted to be. So, I helped him to trace things around, helped him to get to know various aspects and as it turns out: he’s got one hell of an interesting family tree. I won’t go into the full story- but, I’d had a really weird dream about one of them in particular: Anton Kroeck. He was born in Germany, right around 1810 and, frankly, the stories are a bit on the weird side.
He wanted to better understand some things, so, he’s been talking with his mother and father about more recent family stories and traditions, but also, looking into those of his family going further back. He has also been helping his father to record some of his stories from Vietnam. The point of all of this, is to continue living traditions, and to pass them onto our own children- who will, then, pass them onto theirs and so forth but also: to honor those who came before us. We have a couple of ancestral altars- but, really, you don’t even have to be all about that, just having photos and momentos, continuing to keep the memory of them alive in whatever ways you do: well, this isn’t a bad thing. Taking lessons they learned, implementing them, developing your own ways and otherwise living a life that does them proud: another. (If you want some deeply fascinating stuff on ancestors and death from the Heathen perspective: Ashli’s blog posts on this are the best.)
Of course, if you are not familiar with or ignorant about working with ancestors, you might find this to be a fascination with Europe: it isn’t and it is also not reenacting or a piss poor excuse to be a racist. But that’s a rant for another day, over tea.
Cue the Christmas Stollen and The New Year’s Pig
One superstition is that the success of your loaves would in fact, predict the success of the coming year. If your dough didn’t rise, you could expect a shitty year ahead. If it did, however, one could anticipate a successful year ahead.
Another involved shaming the single women: you would gift them with a straw striezel to make fun of them.
It is also tied to a handful of All Saints’ Day traditions associated with funerary cults. One of the originally intended purposes of this bread was that it was given to rural children in order to compensate for the leaner times of year.
Stollen as we know it today didn’t happen for a while. Because Advent traditionally means fasting, creating foods that could be eaten during this time meant recipes that did not have certain ingredients, butter being one of them. (And oh, my hillbilly self just gasps at such notions.) The first recorded Christmas bread as far as Stollen goes, then, was pretty bland and dry. Created by the Council of Trent in around 1545, it was probably pretty gross and didn’t taste like much of anything. Well, even in the 15th century, they felt this was a serious drag and so, The Duke Albrecht and Prince Elector Ernst of Saxony- which is roughly central Germany, now, decided that this needed to change. At that time, using oil in place of butter meant most people had to use turnip oil. This probably sounds a bit weird, but really, all rapeseed oil is- is a close relative to canola oil. (Rape is derived here from the latin for “turnip”, rapum.)
During those days, oil was also fairly expensive and a little hard for most people to come by. So, the brothers petitioned Pope Nicholas V- and he said, “Nope!” The Saxons would eventually make their way through through several more popes before, finally, Innocent VIII would approve the use of butter: but only for the royal household and family of the Prince Elector. If you wanted to make your stollen with butter, but you weren’t- you had to pay a fine right up until the Saxons converted to the Protestant Faith. Did the Saxons convert for butter? I’d like to imagine so, but, frankly, there were loads of reasons this happened.
So, from there, the bread begins to develop more flavor- though, traditional stollen is still a fairly dense, fairly un-sugary but rich treat, in comparison to others you’ll find around the world. The most famed, however- is known by a variety of names, depending on where you are, regionally-Allerseelenzopf, Allerseelenbreze, Allerheiligenstriezel, Seelenspitze, Seelenbrot, just plain ol’ Strietzel or Dresden Stollen.
This is a dense, moist fruit filled bread dating back to about 1474 and if you want the “official” version- is only created by around 150 bakers in Dresden. It’s also a highly regulated commercial product- and the “official” product is sold by certain standards set by the EU.
It actually has two names: Christstollen, for Christmas and after and Weihnachtsstollen for the Christmas season leading up to it. The marzipan ribbon through it was of course a later addition- which leads us to…
Pigs. Pigs. Piggies. PIIIIIIGS.
Of course, the Fins have this thing. Posankka is fairly modern but, now gets a Christmas hat each year.
There are traditions all over the world associated with ringing in the New Year. Pigs, either eating pork products or simply pigs themselves are associated with many of them, across the world.
Going through various members of my family: cornbread, black eyed peas, grapes, figs, fish, pomegranates, collard greens and parts of pigs are eaten, depending on who you ask. And of course, there are a variety of things you do with those things, in addition to eating them. (We actually also tuck some uncooked greens up over our door.)
It’s not terribly difficult to guess why a pig might symbolize abundance or good luck or more appropriately: good fortune.
“Schwein gehabt” is an expression used to denote having been lucky- and schwein means pig, soooo, “I got a pig”, indicates you had a stroke of good fortune, but why? Say you are living in the Middle Ages- of course, you can’t just go to Wal Mart and grab some pork chops when you need to. So, if you had a pig, or even better yet, you’d bred some pigs: you were going to eat and eat well. Globally, for a variety of reasons, the pig is associated with good fortune, but, ultimately- this is what it boils down to. They are also associated with a wide array of deities and folklore, for many different reasons.
Photo credit: Pinimg.com
In Germany, Glücksschwein are given around the New Year for good luck in the coming year. In Norway, the term for the holiday season is Jol, or Jul- and this is actually a common term in Iceland, Sweden, Greenland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Scotland, as well. It begins roughly around December 24th with julaften. One of the traditional things to do is to serve a type of rice pudding known as risgrot, which has one almond hidden in it. Find the almond, collect your marzipan pig- you win.
So, this year, I challenged myself to make both and thus far, my stollen turned out wonderfully, though the process of creating not just the bread but the marzipan itself from scratch intimidated the shit out of me. (Which, frankly, is what makes things like this so much fun for me, anyway.)
I haven’t worked on the piggies, yet, though I suspect, given I lack the artistic skill to sculpt them, I may well end up with something rather Finnish looking when I am through.
What about you? Does your family have any holiday traditions for ringing in the New Year?