Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent Diary, day 17 - Seasonal Symbols

My crabapple, Red Sentinel,  keeps on giving;
it’s a medium sized deciduous tree with showy pinkish flowers in spring 
and edible fruit in autumn; 
Red Sentinel also has gloriously coloured autumn leaves.

Blackbirds will be glad of the fruits as soon as the weather turns cold
when there’s little else on offer for them.

Mince Pie season officially - traditionally - began yesterday.

Originally rectangular in shape, mince pies were abominated as ‘Popish and superstitious’
by Puritans, and were described thus in 1656:

'Idolatry in Crust! Babylon’s Whore
Defiled with superstition, like the Gentiles
Of Old, that worshipped onions, roots and lentils.'

Later, however, the ‘solid, substantial, Protestant mince pie
became the champion of the English Christmas against

imported foreign kickshaws’.

Ah well, from Evil to Virtue and back was ever just a short distance,
if it suited the prevailing fashion.
Personally, I dislike mince pies; 
they’re too sweet, too sticky, too unimaginative for my palate.

is sold in outdoor markets everywhere.

Folklore says that it is on no account to be brought indoors until Christmas Eve.
Clearly, nobody told the owners of this barn restaurant.

Most powerful of all against evil is the rare oak-mistletoe, which should be gathered at New Moon without the use of iron, and never allowed to touch the ground; but mistletoe grown on apple trees or the sacred hawthorn is also especially worth having.

Mistletoe is likewise an aphrodisiac and a plant of fertility, hence perhaps the originally Welsh Border custom of kissing beneath mistletoe boughs decked with ribbons, nuts and apples. After each kiss, the lady concerned should pluck a berry and throw it over her left shoulder; and when the berries come to an end, so should the kissing.

There are an awful lot of berries on a bough!


  1. I never did like Puritans very much, and to think they settled in the New Country by way of Holland. Do you think that may be where Americans got some of their archaic points of view?

  2. Those crazy Puritans. I love Mincemeat pies. My mother made the best ever. It included pork and beef, but no liquor. She would have liked that, but my father was such a Puritan himself. Never could talk about sex.

  3. I decend from the Puritans that settled this country and I can tell you emphatically yes! That is where our prudish ideation originated. It didn't help that the Anabaptist came in behind them and reinforced the ideas.

  4. Actually, I also more directly decend from the Catholics who settled this country and at least they were allowed to drink.

  5. The answer is to make your own mincemeat. Then you get it the way you like it. i put home made marmelade in my mix.

  6. Mistletoe has been banned here in many places (especially office parties and schools) because it promotes unwanted familiarity. Political Correctness run amuck I think!! Dianne

  7. Quaint...in the most pure sense of the word. Here, across the pond, we have too much pomp and glitter and glow. We have moved inside and forgotten the attachment to nature. I like the old-fashioned traditions that remind us of what it was all about.

  8. I love the idea thst solid and substantiall is better for one's spiritual welfare . I prefer the sound of flighty for pastry , at least .

  9. Interesting -- didn't know that about mistletoe. I love your crabapple tree --just beautiful. Don't know about the mince pie. I would try one (because one should) but I'm not sure...

  10. nice...i need to get me some mistletoe...smiles...will have to make sure there are plenty of berries...ha...not sure i have had mince pie actually...

  11. oh my gosh, those pies look good!!! making me hungry....

  12. What a cozy feel this post evokes.. the berries.. the baking and the mistletoe. It all makes me smile.

  13. The crabapple is gorgeous, and eve though you don't like mince pies, you sure make pretty ones. J is just making her first batch tonight. Happy holidays!

  14. Friko, you have made me laugh with this post. There I was, admiring your beautiful crabapple's gorgeous ... maybe even luminous red hue, and then you take me into the land of mince pies.

    Perhaps it's because they are rather rare to encounter over here, but I really love sampling one or ever five around this time of the year. I admit to not ever having made my own...either from "scratch" or just via the simple means of adding a prepared mm to my own pastry.

    I do bake Christmas cookies.

    There are a few spots around NYC that do offer us some versions of mincemeat pies...and in the limited remaining free-from-the-workplace days available to me before Christmas...I intend to get some mincemeat pies into my apartment.

    If I were to have them more available now, or ...to have them available beyond the current season, my zeal might abate.

    Can you tell how much I loved your post? xo

  15. Druidic mistletoe, Stars of David on the mince pie, all so interesting to we in far different places and cultures.

    ALOHA to YOU
    from Honolulu, Dear FRIKO
    Comfort Spiral
    =^..^= <3

  16. Every Christmas my mom would make mincemeat pies. The only one that liked it was my disagreeable uncle. We thought she also made it for herself because she always cut a slice for herself. When mean old Harold died, she stopped baking them. I asked her why and she told me that she really did not like them either, but just made them to put him in a good mood. She was a very kind lady who wanted to please everybody, even a old grump.

  17. Mince pies are a tradition which I have gladly let slide. The christmas cakes continue though. I made a rod for my own back many years ago and started giving them as gifts. I have tried to whittle the numbers down since - but not sucessfully. Twenty-two this year. Bah humbug.

  18. Can you believe I have never once tasted a mince pie? And while I did of course know of the kissing-under-the-mistletoe tradition, I didn't know that it originated from the Welsh border, and about throwing the berry etc.
    The crabapple looks fantastic, it almost looks as if it could light up a whole grey day. What does crabapple taste like? Any similarity with "normal" apples?

  19. The crab apple is so brilliant. I've never gone for mince pies; I think the name put me off as a child as I thought they had cold meat inside them.

  20. "Idolatry in Crust!" Bearing in mind all the hooha about the Great British Bake-Off and similar TV programmes, this could be a useful phrase to bandy about....

    Where do you find these texts ? (For my EngLit A-level, our special subject area was the 17th century, which gave me a love for the glorious vigour of the language of the time, even when it was serving hateful purposes: the number of times at this time of year when I see people around who bring to mind Dryden's "The Sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.............."!)

  21. Hi Friko .. I love all the wonderful folk poems, history tales you give us - I really do feel as though I'm in Medieval times, with an acknowledgement to the 20th and 21st centurues, when I read your posts ... I just love the insights you give us.

    The crab apples are magnificent this year .. but against your red brick wall - such a vibrant colouring .. the photo is wonderful. I hate to say it .. but I do like mince meat .. though the crust around the Idolatry I'm not so keen on ...

    The mistletoe tales abound .. but the barn's branches look just glorious amongst the beams ...

    Happy times - having the things we like?! Cheers Hilary

  22. een heerlijk verhaal bij deze mooie foto,s.

  23. Christmas season just wasn't the same if my Mother did not have mince meat pies - and she made a few every Christmas. Everyone liked them except me, but back in those days you ate what was on the table - not so now, eh.with most of the world's eating habits. I will still avoid Mince Pie - I agree with you. Happy feast for the crows with your beautiful crabapple. Have a wonderful day :)

  24. I love your tree. I've never tried a mince pie; don't think I'd like it. I have tried mistletoe ... and I do like that!

  25. Too sweet??? There's no such thing! LOL :)

  26. Too much kissing, if mistletoe is brought in too early.

  27. I'm enjoying your Advent series.
    Mince tarts - bring them on! I'm the only one in the family that likes mincemeat, so I make tarts, just for myself. Do you make Butter Tarts? Now there's a sweet tart!

  28. Hallo Friko,
    schön, dass Du uns die Traditionen in England zeigst. Von einem "Mince Pie" habe ich nie gehört. Sieht lecker aus und schmeckt bestimmt auch sehr lecker.

    Gruß Dieter

  29. Wow! Those Christmas traditions are a minefield!! But if whatever you're doing is wrong today, just wait a few years for a backflip!!

  30. Your crabapple tree is really gorgeous, but I f beg to differ from you on the subject of mince-pies. I make my own mincemeat with plenty of chopped apple, citrus juice and brandy and it's definitely not too sweet. :-) At this time of year i always wish we could make a quick dash across the channel to our Normandy apple trees, which always have lots of mistletoe. If we could bring it back, we'd make a fortune....

  31. I love that picture of your crabapple, like a whole rollup of all the seasons in one :)


  32. Such a beautiful crabapple! I've never seen one with so much fruit. Do you make crabapple jelly?
    I have a sweet tooth, so I love mince pies, but only the ones I make myself, they're the best. I love them even more because having them only once a year makes them more of a treat.

  33. That tree is beautiful. The mince pie doesn't look bad either :) What time is dinner :)

  34. Very festive and pagan! Lovely.

  35. Those mince pies look too good to eat. I'm like you though I tend to dislike them because of their effect on me. Christmas Blessings from Dalamory. www.freda.org.uk

  36. I am woefully behind on your advent posts. I love fertility customs from back before the planet was groaning under the weight of all these people.

  37. Mistletoe! What a custom!I love mince pies as well, Friko.
    Merry Christmas!

  38. Your crab apple is incredibly beautiful and your mince pies made my mouth water.


  39. Another interesting post, and I've made a note of the crab apple name. As for mince pies, I think they MIGHT in some way be malevolent - haha - they are so sugary and fatty and I don't even like the taste but it is often only polite to eat them.....But yours (if they are yours) look so much nicer than the shop version that I wouldn't mind having one ...
    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  40. I'm not a fan of mince meat either, but I do like the story behind it.

    Around here, mistletoe is harvested with a shotgun.

  41. The crabapple tree is just beautiful. I loved reading about mince pie and mistletoe.

    Sorry for all these comments coming all at once. I guess if I read posts this late, I should be polite and not comment.

  42. ….the kissing should come to an end (LOL). I was so busy before and after Christmas I am finally getting around to reading all you shared on your blog. It's wonderful!


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