Global Candy Traditions Celebrated at Life is Sweet
I had lunch with a dear friend who went out of her way to make a fabulous meal for the two of us. There were meatballs and sweet carrots, roasted potatoes and a French meat pie, known as a tourtiere, with a flaky, buttery pie crust to die for! We had chocolate cake with ice cream. As we removed the dishes, she said, “Wait! We have to whack the pig!”
As a former New Yorker, despite my many years here in New Hampshire, there are still colloquialisms and slang with which I am not familiar. “Whack the pig”? Too late for it to mean “put on the old feedbag”. Maybe it was more like, “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry”? But no, my friend produced a small velvet pouch and a little silver hammer. She clearly expected me to hit this little bag with a blunt instrument, but why? An explanation was in order.
Apparently, whacking the pig meant taking a crack at a little candy peppermint pig. Guests hit the confectionary creature, breaking it into pieces. Then you eat one small piece from the bag to celebrate the good fortune of the year past, and for hopes of good luck in the year to come. The peppermint is sharp and refreshing and honestly, it’s fun to pound the little bag with a tiny hammer! And… I learned another New England tradition.
This made me curious about other candy traditions. Life is Sweet has a wonderful collection of candies and chocolates from around the world with whole sections devoted to British and Japanese candies. Candy isn’t just for Halloween and Christmas. Let’s face it, we all want to feel like a kid sometimes and candy provides the perfect avenue.
Throughout the holiday season it is customary for Brits to carry and offer to one another mint humbugs. It is a hard, black and white striped candy with peppermint flavoring. It became even more popular after the sweet was mentioned in the Harry Potter books, though some claim it is meant to be a joke amongst the British to denounce the Scroogey behavior seen in Dicken’s most famous character as he proclaimed, “Bah, Humbug!”
Marzipan, an almond paste mixed with egg whites and sugar, is a popular New Year’s treat. It is perfect for sculpting different whimsical shapes, such as animals, fruits or vegetables, or used as an icing. It is a perfectly sweet way to ring in the New Year for those who would rather eat, than drink, their calories.
In Russia, there is the famous New Year’s tree with a name I can neither pronounce nor spell. However, the gist of the idea is to decorate a tree at New Year’s with sweets and top the tree with a star. The sweets are then eaten willy nilly until the tree comes down on January 14th. What a perfect transition from Christmas to mid-January for children without the usual post December let down!
South America, Latin America, Spain
January 6th is Three King’s Day, also known as Epiphany. It is the day when the wise men arrived to present their gifts to Baby Jesus. This special day is celebrated with children placing a box, or their shoes, filled with hay or grass beneath the tree. The straw is to feed the animals who carried the 3 wise men on their journey. In the morning, the shoes or box have been filled with candy, and small presents may be placed under the tree as well.
St. Canute’s day on January 13th is celebrated with eating of knack. Knack is a toffee like confection containing chopped almonds. King Canute the Holy declared the Christmas season would last a month. It begins on December 13th with the feast of St. Lucia, and ending with the jolly king’s Saint Day on the 13th. Any day that is celebrated eating toffee seems like a pretty great day.
Chinese New Year
In 2017, Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 27th. The date of the New Year is always between January 21 and February 20th and is dictated by the arrival of a new moon in that time frame. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. It is traditional to give candy to children to celebrate the New Year as well as eat good luck candy, a hard candy with a red wrapper for luck in the coming year.
It would seem a holiday just isn’t a holiday without candy! Thank goodness there are so many possible holidays to celebrate. Life is Sweet wishes you a happy, joyful and fun new year!