Chanukah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights, is an 8 day Jewish holiday which may fall anytime between late November and late December.
It commemorates the miraculous burning of the menorah (the holy lamp) in the temple which was nearly destroyed by Antiochus’ army, during what is known as the Maccabee Rebellion.
This year Chanukah falls between December 1st and December 9th, with the lighting of the first candle on December 1st after sundown.
Long, long ago, a wicked king, Antiochus, ruled the land of Israel. He ordered the Jews to forget about the Torah (Five Books of Moses) and worship his idols. But Hannah, a brave Jewish woman, and her seven sons refused to bow to the king’s idols. Many Jew studied Torah and did mitzvos (commandments) secretly. A small army of Jewish fighters led by Mattathias and his sons battled the king’s mighty army and their giant elephants. The strongest of the sons was Judah. He and his brothers were called the Maccabees. Although, greatly outnumbered, the Maccabees defeated the army of Antiochus. They marched to Jerusalem to reclaim the Holy Temple and get rid of all the king’s idols.
When the Maccabees took back the Temple the first thing they did was begin to restore it. Upon entering the High Priest found only enough pure oil to light the Holy Lamp for one day. By a miracle, the oil burned for eight days and nights. This is why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days.
Today the menorah, which has nine branches: one candle per evening and the Shamash, or servant light, used to light the other candles, is lit during Chanukah. Latkes (potato pancakes) fried in oil are eaten, remembering the oil of the Temple. Also, Jewish children and their families play with a four-sided top called a dreidel. The letters on each side of the dreidel stand for the words “A Great Miracle Happened There!”
Happy Holidays! December is a wonderful month filled with the anticipation of snow and the wonderful holidays of Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. It is a time of contemplation, gift giving and gatherings.
In November we welcomed in the Beaujolais Nouveau in Saratoga and it was a wonderful event enjoyed by all who attended. Our next event will be announced in January so keep checking our website for the announcement or joins us on facebook for up to the minute updates.
For your reading enjoyment, we have included articles on the major holidays of the month. We have something for everybody’s interest.
We invite you to join our facebook page and friend us (or join the “like’ crowd) at The Language Learning Institute. We would love to read your posts and have you join us in a discussion. This is a great place to help you keep current; come visit us on a weekly basis.
December 15th is our Table Française at Chez Daisie and we invite you to join us at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm for great conversation and delicious crêpes.
We are sharing some of our holiday articles in this month’s newsletter. Please enjoy them as you look forward to the holidays ahead.
We, at The Language Learning Institute, wish you all a very Happy and Safe Holiday Season. Enjoy its wonder.
Nancy Scarselletta Owner/Developer The Language Learning Institute 518-346-7096
How did the evergreen, rosemary, mistletoe, holly, poinsettia and candy cane come to be familiar symbols that we associate with the Christmas season?
The evergreen, rosemary, mistletoe and holly were actually used by the Romans in their celebrations of life. The meanings that these things carried fit in perfectly with Christianity and were so adopted.
Evergreen Wreath- Has no beginning and no end. The needles of this tree never go through the life cycle that other trees go through and therefore have come to represent eternal life.
Candles and Flame of Light- Symbolizes the divine light that lights the world.
Ivy- Symbol of new promise and eternal life in the Christian world.
Rosemary- The story that Mary laid the garments of the Christ child on its branches and caused it to have a wonderful aroma which is said to be offensive to evil spirits.
Mistletoe- An emblem of that love which conquers death
Holly- The symbol of eternal life
Poinsettia- This plant has come to be known as the flower of the Holy Night brought from Mexico by Dr. Poinsett, our first ambassador to Mexico.
Candy Cane- Represents the shepherds’ staff and its traditional colors of red and white were chosen because they are the color of blood (foreseeing the blood of Christ which would be shed) and purity (the life of Christ). The stripes on the candy cane are foretelling of the scourging at the pillar.
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. It is celebrated from December 26th thru January 1st. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. The first-fruits celebrations in African history date back to ancient Egypt and Nubia as well as ancient and modern time African civilizations of Ashantiland and Yorulaland.
Kwanzaa honors and represents NGUZO SABA (The Seven Principles). These principles are:
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols of this celebration. These symbols are:
Mazao (The Crops) – These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations. Mkeka (The Mat) – This is symbolic of tradition and history. This is the foundation upon which they build. Kinara (The Candle Holder) – This is symbolic of the African roots. Muhindi (The Corn) – This is symbolic of the children and the future in which they embody. Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles) – These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup) – This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible Zawadi (The Gifts) – These are symbolic of the labor and love or parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.
The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green. The gifts that are given must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is given to emphasize the African value of learning and the heritage symbol is given to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.
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Le Gouvernement et les Nouvelles Françaises
Further investigations into the Air France crash –
On June 1, 2009, an Air France flight headed towards Rio di Janiero from Paris suddenly crashed into the ocean without explanation, and without any survivors. The crash claimed the lives of 228 passengers on board, and to this day, the reason for the accident still remains a mystery. The black boxes of the plane were never found, and now the French government has announced it will relaunch the search early next year. On October 5 of this year, the families of the victims expressed their desire to continue the search for the black boxes. The Secretary of Transportation, Thierry Mariani has assured these families and the public that during this next search campaign, they will use the most modern technology available to them. Until this point, only a few pieces of the plane and about 50 bodies had been found.
This announcement comes in the wake of a statement issued by Air France saying that Airbus and Thales, Airbus being the manufacturer of Air France planes and one of France’s largest exporter companies, are to blame for the accident. Thales is the company responsible for manufacturing the Pitot air speed monitors. A number of error messages were issued by the on-flight computer just before the plane went off the radar. However, this memo has received harsh criticism by the victims’ families, because it indicates that Air France was aware of the faulty speed monitors as well as other problems that they had communicated to Airbus, yet flew anyway. These faulty Pitot probes have been replaced in Airbus planes around the world. The victims’ families and the French are hopeful that the February 2011 search will bring some answers to this tragedy.
Eleonora’s Secret is bringing us through the holidays with this recipe for you to enjoy.
Panettone, a round tall sweet bread filled with raisins, candied citron and orange peels, is prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year around Italy. There are many legends regarding its origins; the only undeniable fact is that it was definitely created in Milan, in the central-northern region of Lombardy.
The word “panettone” derives from the Italian word “pane,” a loaf bread. The augmentative Italian suffix “-one” (pronounced “o-neh”) changes the meaning to “large bread.” Though the etymology of the word ‘panettone’ is rather mundane, many more fanciful legends have arisen.
One of the oldest stories is a love story that gives the date of birth of this cake as the 15th Century at the court of the Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza, known in history as Ludovico il Moro; when Ughetto degli Antellari, Milanese Cavalier, fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. The bold young man was burning with such a passion that he pretended to be a baker’s apprentice to get into the bakery of his loved one’s father to conquer her heart. It was really because of his passion that he invented this sweet bread. This cake met with such success that Ughetto conquered the heart of not only his beloved but the whole family as well and they got married and new cake-like bread: Pan de Toni (or Toni’s bread) was born.
And yet another tale takes us again to the Court of Ludovico il Moro, where the duke offered a royal feast for Christmas Eve. This charming legend has it that during the course of a big Christmas banquette, the court cook burned the planned dessert. The day was saved, however, by the enterprising kitchen boy, Toni, who had prepared a sweet loaf of bread with butter, candied fruit and leftover dough. This improvised cake was such a hit with his guests that the Duke asked what it was called and when Toni replied that he hadn’t yet thought of a name, the Duke proclaimed that henceforth it would be called pan del Toni.
Another legend, narrates that a young nun living in a very poor convent, called Sister Ughetta, to celebrate Christmas, enhanced the usual bread dough with a little sugar, butter, candied fruit and raisins (in Milanese dialect the word for raisin happens to be ughetta), carefully making the sign of the cross with a knife on the top of the cake, by way of blessing it.
But the real history of this cake is a little different. In fact from the time of the Roman Empire, the families from Lombardy gathered together around a burning log and the head of the family sprayed the fire with wine and juniper and then broke the ‘pan grande’ into pieces. A small portion of this cake was then put away until the following Christmas. Specially prepared for the occasion with great care, the Christmas cake also served as a token of family bonds. This rite was repeated time and again over the centuries until 1300 when, on the occasion of the Holy Christmas, a large bread made of white wheat flour alone was prepared. This bread was most luxurious and was thus called ‘pan de ton'(rich).
In the early 20th century, two enterprising Milanese bakers begin to produce Panettone in large quantities to the rest of Italy. In 1919 Angelo Motta started producing his eponymous brand of cakes. Motta was the first person to put a tall cylinder of thin paper in the baking tin, forcing the dough to expand vertically rather than spilling over the side and allowing the dough to rise three times, or almost 20 hours, before cooking, giving it its now-familiar light texture. The recipe was adapted shortly after by another baker, Gioacchino Alemagna around 1925, who also gave his name to a popular brand that still exists today. The stiff competition between the two that then ensued led to industrial production of the cake-like bread. Italian bakers produce some 117 million panettone and pandoro (sweet bread without candied fruit) cakes every Christmas.
Long and complicated, the traditional preparation process involved in making true Panettone is still lovingly practiced in many, non-industrial kitchens like a sacred ritual.
Ingredients: 1 cup raisins (dark, golden or a combination) 1 cup mixed peel or other chopped dried fruit such as apricots, figs or cranberries 1/2 cup brandy 1 cup milk, room temperature 1 envelope (2 1/2 tsp/7grams) active dry yeast 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) butter, softened 1/2 cup granulated sugar 4 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/2 tsp. salt 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Instructions: Combine dried fruit and brandy. Cover and let fruit soak at least 8 hours or overnight.
In a medium bowl, stir together milk and yeast until yeast starts to dissolve. Stir in the 3/4 cup flour until a sticky batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one by one, then beat in vanilla and salt. Beat for 5 minutes.
Add yeast mixture and 1 cup flour and beat until a smooth mixture forms. Attach a dough hook to your mixer and begin beating in 2 1/2 cups remaining flour. If you don’t have a dough hook, mix in flour with your hands. Knead dough for 10 minutes. Add soaked fruit and continue to knead for another 3 minutes. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well buttered large bowl. Turn dough over so surface of dough is lightly greased. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough is doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough and shape into a ball. Place in a well greased panettone pan or a deep 8, 9 or 10-inch round baking pan (I use a souffle dish). To make smaller loaves, divide dough into 6 portions and place in smaller souffle or cake pans. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For small loaves, bake 25 to 30 minutes.
Brush with remaining melted butter and let cool 20 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Makes 1 large panettone or 6 small panettone loaves.
“Travelling with the Language Learning Institute is a wonderful experience! The groups are small, there is a lot of variety, and the trips are flexible enough that you can break away and do your own thing for a while if you want. I have never really wanted to do that, though, because the planned activities are so interesting. I have been on two trips on which I learned a lot about the different regions of France and even Belgium. The trip cost includes five or so sessions before the trip in which we learn about what we are going to experience and in which we learn a little of the language so that we can at least order in French. There is also a wine and cheese party in which we sample the products of the regions we are going to visit and in which we get to know our trip mates better. I would recommend the Learn French and Travel trips to anyone, but particularly for those who want to visit a country in a way that combines the security of a group with the flexibility to do your own thing!”