Food

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Canada
Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world.

Mardi Gras is a time of celebration just before lent.

February 28 is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Carnival and/or Mardi Gras, depending on your culture and traditions. Mardi Gras is the last day for parties before the time of Lent. Lent is when many Christians fast before the Easter holiday. You don’t have to celebrate Easter to enjoy Mardi Gras, but knowing why it’s celebrated can help you understand the traditions.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is based on the date of Easter. This means that the date generally changes from year to year. In 2017, it’s February 28. Next year, the date is February 13. In Canada, it’s not a statutory holiday, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find celebrations here in the country.

During Lent, Christians give up many indulgences, such as meat, alcohol and rich foods. Shrove Tuesday began as a way of using up the food in the household that might be forbidden during Lent. Some believe that Pancake Tuesday was a pagan holiday. Christians are reported to have made pancakes because the recipe would use up eggs, lard or butter, sugar and milk, foods that might be limited through Lent.

Although Lent probably originated in Europe, people around the world now celebrate Mardi Gras, Carnival or Shrove Tuesday with huge festivals. Masquerades and costumes are popular, but so are large amounts of alcohol, many rich foods, not only pancakes and pastries.

At one time, Mardi Gras was a more sedate celebration. Today, it is often considered the single person’s holiday in late Winter, as opposed to Valentine’s Day, which is more couple-centric. 

Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Since 1445, Olney in Buckinghamshire has held a pancake race in which women (although men can participate) carry a frypan and toss a pancake in it while racing 415 yards (one-quarter of a kilometer). The pancake must be in the pan when crossing the finish line, and the contestants must be tossing it as they cross the finish. Typically, these women also dress as housewives, wearing an apron and a scarf. Following the race, everyone goes to the church for a service.

Rio, New Orleans, Trinidad and Tobago and Sydney, Australia are great places to go to enjoy huge parties and crowds for Mardi Gras. Not only is this a time to eat indulgently, it’s also a time to be free of inhibitions. It’s an “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” attitude. In New Orleans, it’s traditional to accumulate beads. Tourists think the best way to get beads is to flash someone, but really, locals prefer you just shout, “throw me something, mister!“ at the people on the floats. Parents of children who come out for the parade will thank you for not flashing yourself for their kids to see.

Places in Canada to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Locally, the most popular place for Mardi Gras celebrations is in Quebec City, but this year’s Carnaval de Quebec was from January 27 through February 12, making it much earlier than Mardi Gras. Ottawa’s Winterlude also misses it this year, as it is from February 3 through 20. You may just have to look for ones in your neighborhood or create your own traditions.

Christmas Food Ideas for the Holidays
Christmas food vector set.

Christmas food can vary greatly from country to country.

We all have family traditions for our Christmas celebration when we sit down to dinner with our families. Sometimes, it’s fun to start new traditions and enjoy a special addition to the holiday festivities. Here are some great ideas to serve during the season to ramp up your appetite.

Christmas Food Menu – Side Dishes

  1. Coquilles Saint-Jacques are simply scallops baked with herbs and cheese. Normally, this dish is served in France as an appetizer.
  2. Porkkanalaatiko is an alternative to the sweet potato casserole. It’s a spiced carrot dish which originated in Finland.
  3. Chicken Soup Avgolemono is often served as the first course at the Christmas feast in Greece. Think chicken and rice soup with a hint of lemon to entice your palate.
  4. Chicken Soup Avgolemono is often served as the first course at the Christmas feast in Greece. Think chicken and rice soup with a hint of lemon to entice your palate.

Main Courses

  1. In Italy, the Christmas eve dinner is called Feast of the Seven Fishes. Serve calamari, clams, shrimp and other fish dishes to await the birth of Christ or the arrival of Saint Nick.
  2. Tamales and hallacas are common dishes in South and Central America. Hallacas are similar to tamales, but might be filled with capers, raisins and meat and wrapped in plantain leaves instead of corn husks.
  3. Mince pies can be found on tables in North America and in England during the holiday season. The traditional filling is made with beef and fruit, but many cooks have adapted the recipe to include only fruits. Originally, mince pies were thought to preserve meats and use up leftovers that wouldn’t keep.
  4. Turkey is a traditional dish in many homes. Spaniards take it to another level by stuffing their turkey with truffles. The dish is called Pavo Trufado de Navidad, and it tastes divine.

Deserts

  1. The Austrian dessert is known as sachertorte, which is a chocolate sponge and apricot jam cake. Served with a side of whipped cream and a cup of hot cider, it makes a great way to end the meal.
  2. In Germany, families make a fruit cake with rum and spices, called stollen. Sometimes, there’s a strip of marzipan in the middle of the bread, which adds a layer of almond flavor and richness.
  3. Make cherry-rice pudding called Risalamande for a traditional Danish dish for your table. Add a whole almond to the mix. Whoever finds it when they’re eating gets a special reward.
  4. Although India is not known for its Christian population, the season is still celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves. Make kulkuls, a spiced coconut cookie, to have on your table.
  5. Beigli is a Hungarian poppy seed cake. It’s a sweet bread dough made like cinnamon rolls, only with a poppy seed filling. Bake it in a loaf pan instead of cutting it into individual rolls before baking.
  6. White Christmas is an Australian confection made of mixed fruit, sugar and copha. It looks similar to white fudge, but can be a little lighter because it doesn’t have the rich chocolate flavor.
  7. Bûche de Noël is served on tables in France and North America. It’s a rolled chocolate cake with a filling such as raspberry jam or whipped cream, decorated to represent the Yule log. If you’ve never had one, make a stab at it this year. It’s actually quite easy, and you don’t need to include all the fancy and fussy decorations.

Festive Drinks

  1. Families in Malta make a cocoa-chestnut drink known as Imbuljuta tal-Qastan. It can be served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve to enjoy it more than once throughout the season.
  2. Crema De Vie is the Cuban version of egg nog. It’s jazzed up with rum and lemon peel for a rich and creamy drink that will help all the adults get a good night’s sleep on Christmas Eve.

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Funeral Etiquette and Traditions
Proper Funeral Etiquette.

Proper Funeral Etiquette.

One of the most solemn occasions most people ever have to attend is a funeral or memorial service. It can be hard to know what to do or say when someone dies. In today’s world, it is even more common to have friends and colleagues who are from different faiths. Here is some general information about funeral etiquette.

Sending Cards, Flowers, and Food

The sympathy card industry is booming, but Emily Post would tell you that it is considered proper etiquette to actually write a note of condolence. It demonstrates you took the time to really think about what you wanted to say. It doesn’t have to be long, but a personal story about the deceased can tell the family how important that person was to you. In any culture, a sympathy note is always appreciated.

Flowers are another traditional offering for funerals, but there are religions which prefer not to have cut flowers. A Jewish family prefers that you give a gift to charity instead of sending flowers. Many people today are having eco-friendly funerals, in which cut flowers are not preferred, but maybe a plant which can continue to thrive would be welcome. The funeral home or memorial service should have information about the family’s preferences.

It’s also considered appropriate to have a family meal following the service. In most churches, synagogues, and mosques, members prepare food for the family to help them in the first days of grief. If you’re unsure about the family’s preferences, you may choose to send them a gift card for food delivery for an evening when they need it most. Meals that can be frozen are helpful, because the family can take them out as needed.

Attending the Funeral or Memorial Service

You might be wondering what is the difference between a funeral or memorial service? At a funeral, the body of the deceased will be present. A memorial service is one where the body is not, such as a cremation. It’s common to wear dark, muted clothes. A funeral is an important occasion, dress as you might for a religious ceremony or business dinner.

Be on time for the service. Funeral venues may have specific parking instructions when you arrive to help with the procession to the graveside. When you enter the location, you should be quiet. Turn off your cell phone or leave it in your car. The seats toward the front of the venue are generally reserved for family and close friends.

This is not the place to talk to the family. Generally, the family will be in a private room before the service, to come in right before it starts. The service will not begin until the family is seated. You will most likely be given a program to follow the flow of the memorial.

Following the service, there is generally a recessional. The pallbearers take the coffin to the hearse, which will take the body to the gravesite. If you are going to the interment, follow the instructions at the venue. As you exit, there may be a family member who is thanking those in attendance. Keep any remarks brief, to keep the flow going.

Be Authentic and Sincere

When someone dies, it is sad. They will be missed. Sometimes, all you have to do is let the surviving family know that you care. Phrases like, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” or “I’m here to help,” can be comforting. When Jews are in their mourning period known as shiva, visitors actually don’t say anything until the family breaks the silence. Just your presence is enough. You don’t have to fix their sadness, just let them know that you understand. Everyone gets tongue-tied and feels inadequate during a time of grief. Be respectful and solemn, even when you are unsure of what to do.