In anticipation of questions from my students about popular American Christmas traditions (and mostly because I don’t actually know), I wanted to scratch my own itch and ask and answer: what is eggnog and why is it so popular in America?
What it is: According to Wiki, eggnog is a rich, white beverage made from milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, and egg yolks. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are often added as a topping. Many adults like to also add spirits like rum, brandy, or whisky to kick it up a notch. Some people make it at home, but it can also be found in any supermarket’s dairy section around Christmas time.
How it became a thing: The history of the word is disputed: some argue the name comes from a 17th century English word for beer (nog); others think it’s a slurring of ‘egg’ and ‘grog‘ (an old word for rum); while even more trace it to 18th-century America.
No matter its etymology, the drink itself was popular among Englands’s lower classes and eventually made its way to the Americas in the 18th century. Although today the drink comes alcohol-free by default (in stores, anyway), in early America the opposite was true and it contained whatever hard alcohol was available, including rum, whiskey, bourbon, and sherry. During the Christmas of 1826, heavy consumption of the drink even led to a literal eggnog riot at the U.S. Military Academy.
How Americans feel about it: Eggnog is a very polarizing beverage and many Americans have strong and nuanced opinions about it: some think the homemade version is heaven in a glass but despise the processed supermarket versions, while others will happily drink any variety as long as it’s ‘spiked’ with alcohol. Either way, there’s apparently enough of a market for the stuff that soy, coconut, and even tofu-based versions are now available.
Even if you pass on the drink itself, the beverage’s flavor can be hard to avoid: seeing nog-flavored treats like waffles, ice cream, and cookies isn’t uncommon, making egg nog’s presence around the holidays almost as ubiquitous as cinnamon and peppermint’s.
『Once upon a time』・・・ 昔々
「Once upon a time in the middle of winter,・・・・」で始まるSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs（白雪姫と七人のこびと）の絵本がきっかけでした。小学生の頃、祖父母がいつかの海外旅行のお土産でこの絵本を買ってきてくれました。
まだ辞書の引き方も知らなかった私ですが、初めての大きなカラー絵本に、よく分からない外国語が並んでいるクールさに感動し大切に保管しました。ストーリーの最初のラインがこのOnce upon a timeで始まるのですが、中学でやっと辞書の使い方を覚え、いざonce, upon, a, time と一文字ずつ辞書で調べましたが全く意味が取れず最初は分からないと放棄していました。その後、Once upon a timeを熟語として辞書で「昔々」と見つけた時の発見といったら衝撃でした！
こういうストーリーは日本の昔話と同じように「昔々」から始まるんだろうな〜とは薄々気づいていて、それがきちんと辞書に掲載されてあることで、大げさですが、自分の予想と意味とが繋がり、とても嬉しかったのを覚えています。この経験から、Once upon a timeを見るたびに白雪姫を思い出します^ ^
最近子供たちとカードゲームをしていた時のこと。まだゲームが終わっていないのに、一人の子がもう負けると泣き出しゲームを放棄してしまいました。この出来事を、外国人たちに英語で説明しようとしました。「負けず嫌い」という表現を知らなかった私は、「ゲームが終わる前に泣き出してしまって、負けるのが嫌いで・・」と長々と説明していると、ネィティブから一言。She is a sour loser.
毎日通勤時に英語のラジオを聞いているのですが、先日ラジオから「・・George W. Bush always said that what he got from his father was “unconditional love,” ・・」と流れたのを耳がキャッチしました。皆さんもご存知の通り、先月第41代米大統領ジョージ・H・W・ブッシュ氏が死去され、そのニュースが流れていました。前後の文章は曖昧にしか聞き取っていませんが、Unconditional loveの箇所は、これまでのうる覚えの蓄積が手伝ってアンテナがキャッチしました！ブッシュ氏が父親から受けた愛というのは、愛は愛でも・・深い、無条件の愛！という推測をしました。
Have you ever heard the saying, “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce”? Beyonce juggles being a wife and mother, a world-famous musical icon, a brand ambassador, and social activist seemingly without breaking a sweat while the rest of us mere mortals are over here complaining about having to go to work AND schedule a dentist appointment in the same day. Obviously, these days Beyonce has a lot of assistants to help her accomplish all her day to day errands. However, I’m sure when she was just a fledgling pop star she had something quite a few of plebeians lack: discipline and focus. After all, you don’t become one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time by sheer luck.
I struggle with keeping focused every day. If I have ten minutes to kill, I mindlessly scroll through Instagram instead of doing something a bit more worthwhile. Enter Dandapani, an Australian Hindu priest, who coaches people on self-development. Dandapani states that people are easily distracted and lose focus because we are training ourself to be easily distracted. Every time our phone buzzes, we race to check our notifications, which makes us a slave to our mobile devices. Dandapani isn’t anti-technology, he just doesn’t believe that we must be connected at all times. If we want better focus, we must train ourselves to be more focused by “keeping our awareness on one thing at a time”. But how do we practice focusing our awareness? Dandapani recommends giving all your attention to a spouse, friend, or partner while they are speaking. If you start to lose focus, bring your attention back to the speaker! Trust me, it’s easier said than done. Here’s a short video by Dandapani on how to control your focus. Let’s play a game; try not to get distracted for the entirety of this 6 minute video!
Interesting, right? Do you think you can practice giving someone or something 100% of your attention? Who knows, maybe the next amazing pop star is in you, waiting for you to realize your potential.
Christmas music usually has themes of spreading holiday spirit, merrymaking, and peace on Earth. While that’s good and all, sometimes you just want to feel an emotion besides sweet saccharine joy during the holiday season. Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole, and any “Carol of the Bells” rendition will always have a soft spot in my heart, but when I want to explore other feelings the Christmas season gives me, I put on these not-so-jolly and less well-known Christmas songs.
“Christmas for Cowboys” by John Denver
Growing up, my parents had a well-worn mix tape of Christmas songs that would live in our family mini-van’s tape player every Christmas season. Sandwiched between Dolly Parton and Burl Ives was this gem from John Denver that I’ve never heard played anywhere else. While most Christmas songs celebrate being together with friends and family, this ballad highlights how even when you are completely alone on the holiday (which I have been) that doesn’t mean the day has to be any less special.
“Christmas at 22” by The Wonder Years
When you’re young, Christmas is about spending (even more) time with your family. But when you grow older and move away to college, the holiday becomes a time when you get to go back to your hometown and see your best friends from high school and how much everyone has changed (or hasn’t). Some may roll their eyes at the song because it hits about every pop punk cliche imaginable (pizza, AIM away messages, hanging out with my friends), but I think it perfectly captures what that point in your life—Christmas at 22—feels like.
“The Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
Somehow I managed to go almost 30 years of my life without ever hearing this song (despite it apparently being the UK’s most played Christmas song of the 21st century), but after discovering it last year I don’t think I’ll ever go another Christmas without it. The song has dark themes–drug abuse, gambling, domestic disputes, homophobic slurs–and yet still presents an air of hope for a better life in the way only Christmas can.
“Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink 182
Let’s be honest: as an adult, Christmas can be a giant pain. Whether you are working at Toys R’ Us and getting sworn out by deal-crazed grandmothers or are spending hours cutting paper stocking decorations that are going to get thrown away in two weeks, Christmas can you make you feel like a big Scroogey-Grinch at times. There’s nothing profound in the lyrics of Blink 182’s Christmas contribution, except that yeah, you’re not alone in sometimes wanting to grab a baseball bat and send carolers running from your front door.
Every one has a guilty pleasure and mine so happens to be found on YouTube. “Snog, Marry, Avoid” was an English TV show that claims to help people embrace their natural beauty. On each episode, three flashy young men and women are brought into P.O.D. (a “make-under” robot with attitude) and forced to shed their loud makeup, fake tans, and hair extensions for a more natural, socially-accepted level of attractiveness. Make-unders may include cutting and dying hair to a more natural shade, removing facial piercings, a new wardrobe of less revealing clothing, and makeup in neutral shades. The title comes from a poll taken by strangers on the street. The strangers are shown a picture of the contestant and asked if they would rather snog (a.k.a. kiss), marry, or avoid them. The initial reaction is usually avoid for reason such as they’re wearing “too much make up” or because their “clothes are too skimpy”. Some of their comments can be quite rude actually. After their make-under, the reactions are generally much more positive with the pollers stating that they would elect to either snog or marry the contestant if they could. Once the shock of seeing themselves in this new fashion wears off, most contestants generally like their new appearance. However, occasionally the show checks up on past contestants and we see that they usually revert to their past ways of too much fake tanner and midriff bearing tops.
Here’s a little taster of what an average episode looks like:
While I believe that everyone should dress the way they want and live the lifestyle they enjoy, I always get a little teary eyed after the make-under when I see a contestant who is truly shocked at and enjoys their new look. I guess I just want everyone to have their happily-ever-after moment. What’s your favorite “junk” television show?
When I first learned that in Japan there are four different types of prefectures–ken, fu, dō, and to–I was confused as to why. A prefecture is a prefecture right? But as I have thought about it and learned more, I realized that America also has these kinds of naming exceptions for their administrative jurisdictions.
46 States?: While the U.S. is known for its famed 50 States, four of them call themselves commonwealths instead of states. Despite their unique label, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have no special political status compared to the ‘official’ states.
Counties: In most U.S. states, local government is divided up into smaller areas called counties. Even with two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island) not having them, there are still 3,142 counties in the country. In two states, however, these go by different names: boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana.
District: Then of course there’s Washington D.C., the only area in the U.S. (excluding territories like Puerto Rico) that doesn’t lie within the boundaries of a state. Here, the District of Columbia is just that: a special district where the country’s federal government lives and operates. The word ‘district’ also has other uses, such as ‘school district’ which designates where children residing in a particular areas of the city must attend (public) school.
Last week, I helped decorate Shigenobu Amic for Christmas. One of my students protested that it was far too early to start decorating, because “Halloween was less than a month ago!” However, in the United States, Christmas decorations are usually sold alongside Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations until mid-November, when they take their rightful place front and center of stores. In fact, most Americans who celebrate Christmas opt to put up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the last Thursday in November. However, most department stores start decorating much, much earlier. Giant Christmas trees decorated with shiny ornaments, blinking lights, and yards of tinsel displayed outside and inside nearly every establishment is usually our cue to begin celebrating Christmas. Garlands of fir and pine are intertwined on banisters and twinkling lights appear around house frames. Inflatable Santas and Rudolphs wave their arms unendingly on the lawns of the tackiest homeowners. The airwaves are bombarded with of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” blasting from speakers. ABC Family, aka Freeform, begins their 25 Days of Christmas movie marathon. But the blatant consumerism and mindless entertainment aren’t the only things that truly make Christmas, Christmas. As cheesy as it sounds, Christmas is pure feeling. Nostalgia and excitement mixed with eggnog and cinnamon spice. Yes, maybe decorating starts a bit early for Japanese tastes, but nothing compares to walking into your local mall and staring up at a beautifully outfitted 20 foot Christmas tree or standing in line for pictures with Santa. The peace and quiet of Christmas Day is a little celebration in itself. How about you; does your family celebrate Christmas?