Happy birthday to my blog, born the 10th of May 2013. My goodness, how the time flies. Actually, I registered the website and downloaded all the software in March of that year, but then it took me all the way until May to get it functional, with a couple of weeks when I was so fed up with my server and providers that I took time off to recover and regroup. When I got the site up and running I was pretty lackadaisical, but then I got the bit between my teeth and have been posting continuously every day ever since – with time off to be deathly sick, travel, and so forth. There’s over 1,000 posts to look through if you wish, with buttons in the bar on the right to help you (which took days out of my life to get functional). Don’t believe the hype from providers when they tell you that you can have a blog functional in 15 minutes. Eventually they’ll say – “Oh !!! You want to CUSTOMIZE it do you? That’s hard.” Damn straight I want it to look a certain way, and be able to upload photos, videos and what not.
Anyway . . . I’m pleased with how it is now and I don’t mess with the structure very much any more. People find me when they need to, and I’ve learned about SEOs, weblogs, and so forth. I passed 250,000 unique hits a few weeks ago. That’s either one guy with a lot of time on his hands or a bunch of people stumbling on the site randomly through search engines, plus a few fans. Basic analysis of my stats tells me that the latter is probably the case. My five top posts of all time are as follows:
Heading the list at #1 is Arthur Rackham, master illustrator of the golden era of British book publishing. He gets hits all the time and has been viewed over 5,000 times. Astonishing.
Coming in at #2 is Mondrian. Lots of ideas for cakes and sandwiches that look like Mondrian paintings.
The death of Cleopatra used to be #1 but she’s now dropped to #3.
The creation of Coca-Cola by Dr John Pemberton in 1886 as a health tonic is #4.
And . . . Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince rounds out the list at #5.
All told that’s about 25,000 hits.
Last year at this time, I mentioned that for some dates I was starting to run out of ideas. There’s always plenty of birthdays, holidays, and events to mention daily, but some days seem to be filled with events I am not interested in, birthdays of people who are not especially memorable, or just things that don’t excite me. As you can see, I’ve got eclectic tastes, but there are limits. So, for this coming year I’m changing the format slightly. I’ll still post about fixed celebrations as they arise (and it’s getting harder and harder to make sure when I post something on a particular date that I have not done it before), but I’m going to start including celebrations that move about the Gregorian calendar because they are based on a lunar calendar, because they are pegged to a particular day of the week, or because they are intermittent in some way. So now I can pay homage to Passover, Chinese New Year, Mother’s Day in Afghanistan, or whatever else takes my fancy. That plan won’t occupy all 365 days of the year, so I’ll still celebrate some fixed anniversaries as well. I will, however, give priority to movable celebrations.
To kick off this brilliant new year here’s Radonitsa:
Today is Radonitsa (Радоница, “Day of Rejoicing”), also spelled Radunitsa, Radonica, or Radunica, in the Russian Orthodox Church, a commemoration of the dead commonly observed on the second Tuesday of Pascha (Easter Season). The Slavs in general have had a long tradition of visiting family members’ graves during the springtime and feasting together with them. Over time this custom was incorporated into the Russian Orthodox Church as the festival of Radonitsa. The name comes from the Slavic word “radost'”, meaning “joy.”
Because of the importance of and the joy of the Resurrection, church rule forbids special prayers for the departed, aside from funerals, from Holy Thursday (in Holy Week) through Thomas Sunday (1st Sunday after Easter). Therefore, the first opportunity after Pascha to remember the dead is on the second Monday of Pascha. However, because in Orthodox countries, a number of monasteries follow the custom of fasting on Mondays, the feast is commonly celebrated on Tuesday, so that all may partake of eggs.
On this day, after Divine Liturgy, the priest celebrates a Panikhida (memorial service) in the church, after which he blesses the dishes that the faithful have brought with them. The clergy, with incense and candles, then go in procession with the cross, followed by the faithful, to visit the graves of departed believers either in churchyards or in cemeteries. At the graves, paschal hymns are chanted together with litanies for the departed.
The dishes are then eaten by the friends and relatives of the deceased at their gravesides. It is common to place an Easter egg, a symbol of Christ’s coming forth from the Tomb, on the graves of the departed, saluting them with the traditional paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!”
Foods traditionally eaten at Radonitsa are: funeral kutia, painted eggs, kulichi, pancakes, dracheni, honey prianiki, and cookies. I’ll focus on kutia here. Traditionally it is made of wheatberries, poppy seeds, honey, various nuts, dried fruit and raisins. In many recipes milk or cream is also used. You can vary proportions according to taste.
1 ½ cups wheatberries
4 ½ cups of milk
¾ cups poppy seeds
½ cup honey
½ cup raisins
⅔ cup dry apricots, chopped
⅔ cup slivered almonds (or chopped walnuts)
Rinse the wheatberries in a sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear. Then transfer them to a deep bowl and soak them overnight in lukewarm water.
Next day, drain the wheatberries and place them in a heavy pot with the milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently until the wheat berries are very tender (a minimum of 3 hours) stirring occasionally. Add milk as needed.
Rinse the poppy seeds in a fine mesh sieve, drain well, and put in a heavy saucepan with 3 cups of water. Bring the pot, covered, to a gentle simmer, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 30 min. Then repeat the process – return to a simmer, turn off, cover and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Drain the poppy seeds and process or grind them well
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast them for 5 minutes. Keep a careful eye on them, shaking the baking sheet regularly so that the almonds color evenly, and do not burn. Set them aside and reduce the oven temperature to 325˚F.
Drain off the milk from the cooked wheatberries, reserving ½ cup. Combine the honey with the saved milk. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked wheat berries, ground poppy seeds, chopped apricots, toasted slivered almonds, honey-milk mixture and a pinch of salt. Mix everything together and place in a casserole. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered at 325˚F.
Remove the kutia from the oven, cover with foil and let it rest 15 min.
You can serve kutia warm or cold. It will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks.