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January - 2011

National Hot Tea Month Folk Customs



Dear Tea Friends,

— By Marnie Pomeroy in
Poems for Seasons and Celebrations,
Edited by William Cole


The Flower of Scotland, Words and Music: Roy Williamson (1936-l990)

  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that I had the time to write for pleasure. And it is an overdue pleasure to be able to write to all of you. I’ve got the luxury of a day at home and I’ve decided to play hooky from household chores. The Christmas tree is still up (!), there’s a suitcase to unpack, and expense reports to file, but that can all wait while I sip a cup of tea with Jasper, the cat, on my lap. I’ve often left the tree up though January sixth, and hosted a farewell to Christmas Twelfth Night party, but this is the first time I’ve left it so late. However, in Scotland’s Shetland Islands (the archipelago located 62 miles north of mainland Scotland) January 17 was the Old Twelfth Night or Epiphany Day.

I was reminded of Scotland when I opened a package today and discovered several of Bonnie Rideout’s CDs. If you’re not familiar with her, Ms. Rideout, bonnierideout.com, is the only American to hold the honor of representing Scottish fiddle music at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival. She is also the first woman to hold the national Scottish fiddle title; her A Scottish Christmas CD became a New York Times “Top Ten Holiday Best Seller.” I’m listening to Scotland’s fiddle piobaireacho volume one as I write. Her music is so emotional and evocative that it is a sweet sting to listen.

The CD reminds me of the first time I visited to Scotland and landed in a wee pub on the Isle of Mull late one night. There, I heard, for the first time, Scots singing their unofficial national anthem, The Flower of Scotland, about Robert the Bruce’s defeat of England’s Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314. I was astonished to hear the passion in the singers’ voices about an event that had taken place before we were even a country.  Years later, I whipped around an underground tunnel in the New York subway system and nearly collided with a kilted bagpiper playing the same tune with equal fervor. I and many others stood stock still, bewitched by the haunting melody.

But back to the holidays, before the “Merry Month” is officially over. This year, my husband and I didn’t host a Twelfth Night Party, but we did a lot of cooking. Because neither of us comes from a large family, nor do we have family nearby, we’ve learned to make a family of friends. We invited one couple to lunch on Christmas Day (my Southern relatives would have called this meal “dinner”) and another friend joined us for supper that night. Next day we were up bright and early to prepare a Boxing Day Tea Party for twelve with the left–over ham and other Christmas provisions.

Roger baked cranberry-orange buttermilk scones, and took the previously baked gingerbread bears with shaggy cocoa-powder coats, Mexican wedding cakes, chocolate-cherry-espresso cookies, and rosemary shortbread out of their tins. I prepared curried egg-salad, ham, and coconut butter and orange butter tea sandwiches. But the most interesting, and easy savory was smoked salmon served on freshly-baked Parmesan cheese rounds, rather than bread. I concocted a last-minute punch with pink grapefruit juice, orange juice concentrate, champagne, and crushed pineapple, and brewed my own Friendship Blend Tea served with honey from our hives, http://teawithfriends.com/friendship-tea.php

Some in the group that included a caterer, weaver, potter, painter, singer, musician, social worker, writer, photographer, among other creative folks were familiar with afternoon tea and others had never been to one, but judging by the flurry of post-tea calls and notes, I think we’ll have to do it again.

If you’d like to host a Celtic-inspired tea party you’ve got two more opportunities this month - a Burns Night High Tea on January 25, to celebrate the life and work of Scotland’s National Poet, and January 31 is St. Bridget’s Eve. Ancient Celts believed that Bride/Brigid visited the poor on that night and blessed all who made her welcome. The Church transferred this belief to Irish abbess St Brigid of Kildare. Menus and other tea party details are available in http://www.teawithfriends.com/celticteaswfriends_bk.php. If you do host such a party, I’d love to hear about it.

Thurs., Jan. 27 from 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Mt. Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden
421 E. 61st Street, NYC
Amanda Wheeler, Programs Mgr.
Tel. 212-838-6878

Sat. Mar. 5 from 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Newburgh Free Library
124 Grand Street
Newburgh, NY 12550 845-563-3601
Pat Lewis
Newburgh Free Library, Adult Programs and Marketing Librarian 
Tel. 845-563-3619

Sat., Mar. 26 from 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Onondaga Free Library
4840 West Seneca Turnpike
Syracuse, NY
Susan Reckhow
Tel. 315-492-1727





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