Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pase del Niño - Passing of the Child in Christmas


All Ecuador celebrates Christmas.

The streets and churches have special decoration with Nativity scenes, lighting and ornaments.

Ecuadorian Christmas celebrations are a colorful, and often bizarre, mixture of the sacred and the profane.

The majority of holidays in Ecuador are the result of the Christian colonization that modified the rituals and celebrations of the indigenous community.

Andean and ancestral religion moved to the Catholic religion which until today is charged of syncretism with indigenous ancestral world and nature.



Pase del Niño


One of the Ecuadorian Christmas traditions is Pase del Niño, or Passing of the Child.

It is a time-honored festival of thanksgiving and homage that combines Catholic and indigenous traditions.

Pase del niño is a religious procession representing the characters of Christmas with tableau vivant.

Joseph and Mary with the child in arms on a donkey pass through the streets; the community with prayers and songs accompanies them.



Pase del Niño is celebrated in every school, high school, municipality and parish.

The procession includes the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, pastors, angels and different animals.

But it may also include a Santa Clause, elves, clowns, featured floats, decorated cars, flowers, fruits and vegetables and anything the Ecuadorian imagination can come up with.

Introduced to Latin America by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, the Pase del Niño is a Christmas celebration in which likenesses of the infant Jesus are carried through towns and villages.


In Ecuador, the tradition remains strongest in the Andean region.

Every neighborhood and town will have its own parade with its own entries.

Each will carry its own statue of the Christ child.

This is something that communities plan for the entire year.


A Christmas procession that goes on until the Carnival


Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity.

It begins the first Sunday after Advent and continues to Carnival in early March.

In addition, the nativity scene or so-called "nacimientos", are assembled in the majority of Ecuadorian homes, which are representations of the birth of Jesus.

The families gather around the nativity scene in their houses to pray the traditional novena before December 25.


Novenas are nine consecutive nights of song, food and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches.

On Christmas Eve, the Misa del Gallo, or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches.

The midnight mass or “Misa del Gallo”, is celebrated at midnight, and is called Rooster Mass because you are supposed to be able to hear the roosters waking up while getting back to home.

In this way people receive December 25 to commemorate the birth of the baby Jesus.



Traditions of Pase del Niño


There are two types of Passes: greater and minor.

The first ones are those with a great number of participants.  In these processions the people worship a Niño Dios (God as a child) that belongs to a temple or religious community.

The minor Pass involves a smaller number of participants and it is generally of familiar nature.



There is also a very complex ritual preceding the performance of Passes, it includes an invitation and watch.

The invitation is extended with many months in advance and it is addressing the city people as well as peasants.

All guests get a present from the president; it is usually of sweet bread commonly known as “costar” and a glass of “chicha” (a sweet drink).

Accepting the gift will mean a commitment to take part in the Pass.


Finally, the night before mass, a watch is performed.

All participants “accompany” the image of Niño Dios in a church when it is a greater Pass, and the host’s home when it is a minor Pass.


When the watch is performed at someone’s home it is very common for the guests to bring along liquor and food to celebrate the event which will end at dawn with a cup of coffee, canelazos or hot chocolate and a piece of bread.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Finnish Christmas Ham and Plum Sauce


Christmas is the most important church celebration of the year in Finland.

More people go to church on Christmas than on Eastern.

And there are many traditions that people keep up, even though they do not consider religion a part of their lives the rest of the year.

At the same time Finnish, and Northern European, Christmas traditions have roots that go long time before Christianity ever came to the North.


The Christmas tree decorated in every house, is a reminder of sacrificial trees that were decorated with different sacrifices, even with human sacrifices.

The Santa Claus, or Joulupukki ,Christmas Goat in Finnish, is a vestige of ancient celebration of Kekri, celebration of harvest and autumnal, and also celebrated again in winter, equinox.

An old deity that would visit the houses bringing good luck and who would demand presents and food and drinks in return.

If this was not provided, he would beat the house owners and break their things.


A reminder of this is Finnish Santa Clause’s question: Are there any good children in this house?

Because a Finnish Santa Claus used to bring fresh tree branches to whip the disobedient children with them.

Even the traditional Finish Christmas food is a vestige of old celebrations to deities.

The Viking Jule was celebrated around the Christmas time, a celebration to Freya, who among other things was the Goddess of pigs.


To celebrate her, every household would kill and cook a pig.

Eating homemade ham still remains a very popular Christmas tradition in Finland.

For this Christmas I made a traditional Finnish Christmas Ham with a Plump Sauce to celebrate with the families of my work team.

It is something new here in Ecuador but they seemed to enjoy it just as much as the Finns do.

The preparation of the ham is a very simple process.



TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS HAM


Ingredients
(For 30-40 people)

20 kg Ham (leg and buttock are the best)
3 liter of  Water
18 table spoons of Salt
1 dl of strong Mustard
½ of fresh Honey


1. First the ham is curated in salt for three days. For a 20 kg ham, I used salt water mix of 5 dl of water and three table spoons of salt that I let dissolve in the water first. Then I injected the salt water to the ham twice a day.

2. To bake the ham I mixed 1 dl of strong Finnish mustard with ½ dl of fresh eucalyptus honey and poured it on top of the ham, making sure it was covered everywhere. You can use any kind of mustard you like to, also the honey you use depends on your preferences.

3. The ham must be cooked for an hour for every kilo. The first one and a half hour in 250 °C and then the resting 18 and half hours in 150 °C.  Make sure to check the meat periodically and pour the excess liquid out of the pan.

The resulting meat is soft, tasty, can be pulled apart from them bones and melts in your mouth like butter.

To accompany the meat I used the excess liquid to make a sauce.



PLUM SAUCE for the Ham


Ingredients
(For 20 kg Ham)

½ kg of Plums
1 liter of Water
½ liter of Excess Liquid from the Ham
1 tea spoon of Grease from the Ham
2 dl of Cream


1. Cook the plums with the water until they are soft. Put the water and plums into the blender and blend them into soft pure.

2. Put the pure into a pan with the excess liquid with the ham and 1 tea spoon of grease, if you wish to. The excess liquid gives the sauce its taste but the grease isn’t obligatory, even though it does give more taste to the sauce.

3. Cook until the sauce boils, mix the cream with the sauce and stir well. Let it cook until it starts to boil and take from the stove before it burns.

Serve fresh on top of the ham.



ENJOY!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Queen With The Frozen Heart - A Cup Of Chicha


The jaguar men lay around the cave, snoring and drooling.

Iluku grabbed an ear and twisted it.

She yanked a piece of fur.

But the two men only moved lazily.


The first one tried to scratch behind his ear and fell down to the floor where he continued to snore even louder.

Finally she was happy.

A pilche of chicha under her arm she marched towards the entrance.

- Take the big bowl, she commanded her husband, the one that is full!


The passage under the mountain was dark and damp.

They were moving further and further inside the rock and the earth, away from the air and the open sky.

She could feel the weakness in her bones.

Just like an old, rheumatic woman would.


When they finally reached the dungeons she was limping and holding her back in pain.

- Do you really have to keep your prisoners all the way back here, she groused at the guards, at least get someone younger to bring you your chicha! Do you think that I’m a maid born just day before yesterday to be walking down all those passages!

- If you wish I can save you the trouble of walking back, one of the guards growled showing his teeth, I don’t think Kasike minds if we have one more or less closed in behind the bars.


- Wouldn’t you just love that, Iluku hissed at the guard, but I’ll just ask who’ll make you chicha then?

- Stop bothering her, another guard warned the first one, I’ve been hankering that chicha since she first came here.

- Don’t think that I’ll take just anything woman, the first jaguar man’s hackles were up, but a big pilche of chicha would help to forgive you.

- Then that is exactly what I’ll give you, Iluku held her pilche out and let the guard drink it all up.


She smiled at the guard and nodded, that’s the way to do it. Give me more old man, so I can offer chicha to the other fine warriors here.

She let everyone of the jaguar men drain his cup and then stayed to talk with them for a while.

Little by little the warriors eyelids started to droop and they fell into sleep and onto the floor.

To be continued...



This is the thirtyfirst part of the story.

To read the first part of the story, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 1  

To read the second part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 2 

To read the third part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 3

To read the fourth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 4

To read the fifth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 5.

To read the fourteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 14

To read the sixth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 6

To read the seventh part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 7

 To read the eight part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 8

To read the ninth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 9

To read the tenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 10

To read the eleventh part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 11

To read the twelth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 12

To read the thirteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 13

To read the fifteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 15

To read the sixteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 16

To read the seventeenth part, go to the The Queen With The Frozen Heart 17

To read the eighteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 18

To read the nineteenth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 19

To read the twentieth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart 20



To read the twenty third part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - At The Mouth Of The Cave

To read the twenty fourth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - The Visiting Star

To read the twenty fifth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - Time To Leave The Home

To read the twenty-sixth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - A Suitable Wife

To read the twenty-seventh part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - Down In The Dungeons

To read the twenty-eight part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - Savouring The Chicha

To read the twenty-ninth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - Flying With The Stars

To read the thirthieth part, go to The Queen With The Frozen Heart - The Monster Awakens

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ecuadorian Christmas Baggies - A beloved tradition


In Ecuador, during the weeks leading to Christmas, the commerce of biscuits, chocolates, cookies, candies, lollipops, among other sugary goodies, increases drastically.

The homes, offices and educational institutions all begin buying candy and goodies for treats.

At local candy stores people come in to search of the best deals for arming their Christmas baggies.

The sales, mainly of animal crackers and chocolates, increase and the shoppers buy the treats in weight by pounds.


The most popular treats are the chocolates and biscuits but each year people will innovate their Christmas baggies.

There are also ready-made baggies sold, with candies, chocolates and cookies for those who do not want to prepare their own baggies.

The baggies are a popular gift, not just for children but for coworkers, employees, family and friends.


The really lucky ones will get various bags to enjoy during the Holiday times.

The candy and cookies are a delight to everyone, no matter the age.

It is a reminder of the childhood and the treats received before and enjoyed together with family and friends.

A beloved tradition for everyone, everywhere in Ecuador.


How to get ready


We prepare the Christmas baggies together with my son at our house.

It is a wonderful time for both of us, a time to prepare for the Holidays, listen to Christmas Carols and enjoy each other’s company.

He usually brings a friend or two to help and of course they take a baggie home as a prize for the work done.

Besides the Christmas music I prepare the Christmas spirit with Canelazos or Finnish Glögi (mulled wine) that go perfectly with the cookies, candies and chocolates.

For making the Christmas baggies, you’ll need pretty Christmas themed bags.

You can either buy them or make your own.

You will also need candies, cookies and chocolates, preferably individually wrapped.


How to prepare a perfect Christmas baggie


The secret of the perfect Christmas baggies is to have one third of varied cookies, so there is enough of them but not too much.

A Christmas bag with too much cookies is seen cheap but when there are too little cookies, people aren’t happy either.

Another third is candies of different kind, with some gummy drops or chewing gum for the smaller kids.

The last third is for chocolate, and there needs to be different kinds and flavors also.

Don’t fill the baggie with just one kind of cookies, candies and chocolate.


The Christmas baggies should always be a surprise, and the surprises shouldn’t end before the baggie ends.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Traditional Christmas Treats from Finland - Plum Mince Pies and Glögi (Mulled Wine)


The Christmas time smells and tastes are different in every culture.

One of the hardest things for me, when I came to Ecuador, was learn to accept and enjoy Ecuadorian Christmas.

It didn’t even seem like Christmas at first.

There was no snow; it was hot, with sun shining brightly on you.


Everything was green and thriving.

There was not much Christmas preparing, or even advertising, because people didn’t really celebrate Christmas.

They would just go to Midnight Mass and eat a baked chicken with their family.

The gifts were often bought in advance, chosen by the receiver and given right outside the store.


That was the time when the homesickness really hit, the realization of how different everything was.

How I wasn’t at home anymore and how the people really were different from what I was used to and where I was raised.

Not bad but different, unlike me.

That is why I started to work for the perfect Christmas.


I would bake Christmas cookie, decorate the house, put the tree, and make everything look, smell, sound and taste as much Finnish Christmas as I possibly could.

I could not change the outside of the house but I did my best to make the inside look like it had just been ripped from Finland, maybe by a tornado, and arrived to Ecuador by accident.

Because that was how I felt during the Holidays.



I did learn a lot about my cultural heritage and when the worst home sickness passed, in few years time, I was able to create my own Christmas.

A mix of Ecuador, Finland and just plain me.

One of the things I learned to do the hard way were the Minced Christmas Pies.


Usually in Finland people just go to the store and buy a lump of frozen puff paste.

Puff pastry is baked with butter and it takes days to accomplish baking the minced pies but I would toil on, to accomplish the perfect Christmas.

Traditionally, they are filled with plum marmalade but other bake jams are definitely worth a try.


If you want to buy the dough, the pastries are very simple to make.

You need to spread the dough sheet on a baking sheet and let them thaw for approx. 15 minutes.

Then cut the sheet into squares and make diagonal incisions from the corners of the squares towards the center (halfway).

Lift every other corner up and nip them in the center by pressing down with your moistened fingers.


Put a spoonful of bake jam / marmalade in the center.

Bake the tarts in 225 degree oven at approx. 10-15 minutes.

The pies are the best, just roasted.

Or if you wish to do your own dough, here is the recipe I’ve used and have worked very well for me.

FINNISH MINCED CHRISTMAS PIES


300 g  butter
     300 g  wheat flour
     1 teaspoon  baking powder
     2 dl  water

FILLING

     100 g  marmalade (plum)

ON TOP

     1 pcs  egg

DECORATION

     1/2 cup  icing sugar


PREPARATION

1. Take 100 grams of the butter and it pluck it with wheat flour and baking powder by hand (or you can make your dough with food processor but that wouldn’t be as traditional). Add the water and stir quickly until smooth. Do not knead the dough too much, or it will toughen.

2. Roll out the mince pie dough on a floured surface to about 1 1/2 cm thick and about 22 cm x 32 cm in size, flat tops rectangle. Use a long ruler to measure the plate, and the edge in leveling, to make sure it’s even.

3. Spread the rest of the butter so that overlaps on half of the dough sheet. Lift the other half of the  dough on top of the other half and brush the excess flour off. Press the edges of the dough so that they’ll stick and the butter won’t gush off. Press the disc gently at first, then with a rolling pin and roll out another rectangle plate lightly.


4. Fold the sheet in three parts and roll out again into rectangular sheet. Roll out the dough always into a same size and level rectangle. Roll the plate three more times, folded into three parts as indicated above.

5. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator wrapped in foil for about 15 minutes in between when the dough starts to feel too warm. Use plenty of flour, but brush the surface of the dough to remove the excess flour when folding the dough sheet.

6. Let the dough rest in the fridge for one night before baking. Roll out the dough in two installments of about 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into about 9 cm x 9 cm squares.


7. Cut incisions towards the middle in the corners of the squares. Put a teaspoon full of baking jam or marmalade in the middle of every square. Lift every other corner of the dough piece in the middle. Press your finger in the center brought the corners, so that they’ll remain closed.

8. Move the mince pies on the baking sheet and lubricate them with the egg, if you want. bake them for 10-15 minutes in 225°C.

9. Before serving sift some icing sugar on top of the Christmas pies.



TIPS

- Place the butter in the freezer for a while before baking, so that it is easy to cut thin slices of it.

- When the rolling-out the dough, use a light hands! If you press the dough heavily with the rolling pin, it will easily brake and the butter will get out. If this happens, sprinkle the broken part with flour and continue rolling with a little lighter hand.

- Mince pies are the most delicious freshly baked but the dough can last for few days. So if you have visitors coming or a party planned, keep the dough in the fridge and bake it just before everyone arrives.


Serve your Christmas mince pies with traditional glögi or mulled wine from Finland.

It’s simple to do and perfect for the season.

GLÖGI

(For six)

1 bottle  Red wine
1 liter  Cranberry juice
2 dl  concentrated Blackberry juice
5 dl  Water
10  Cloves
2 Allspice
1 teaspoon  Cardamom
10  Cinnamon sticks
Bitter orange peel (pinch)
Raisins (to taste)
Sliced and peeled Almonds (to taste)
Sugar (to taste)



 PREPARATION

1. Mix the wine with Cranberry and Blackberry juices and the water in a pan. Cook until it boils. Turn the stove off and add the spices (cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom and bitter orange peel).

2. Let the mulled wine sit on the stove for at least ten minutes, more if you want the taste stronger.


3. Sift the glögi to serve it.

4. Add raisins, almonds and sugar to the taste.



MERRY CHRISTMAS!