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Happy New Year

January 1st in many parts of the world is celebrated as the beginning of a new year.  These celebrations take different forms but people look to this day as a way of starting anew and find ways to to make a fresh start.  The most common thing people do is go to a party, to celebrate with loved ones.  Not only is this an extension of just wanting to party and have a good time but  many people believe that what you do during the time of the new year is what you will be doing for the rest of that year.  By trying to insure they are having a good time at the stroke of midnight means they will have a good time through the year.  This is also a time to clean out the old, getting rid of those bad things that have happened in the past.  We want to not keep the baggage of past mistakes or unfortunate events around to cause the coming year to be bad.  While in the United States the celebrations are centered around parting with friends other countries look to this time differently.  Russia is a good example where the new year is marked by exchanging of gifts with family and friends.  Similar to the traditions that are found in the U.S. this is the time to get together with family and enjoy their company.  The gift giving is reminiscent of Christmas in the U.S..  And just like in the holiday celebrated there the people of Russia will put off the buying of gifts and cause the last few days to be one of manic shopping at stores.

In the United States different areas will even have their own traditions, such as in the south east soaking lima beans over the holiday and eating them on the morning of the first to bring good luck. 

So I am using this day to mark the beginning of my new blog and podcast.  You will see many more things being posted from now on and I hope you will take a moment or two to let me know what you think of this endeavor as well as share with me some of your holiday traditions and even some of the special days you either celebrate or may know about.  Please accept my wish for you to have the best year and enjoy all that life has to offer.

Jeffrey Johnson


Last post before the relaunch of the Blog and Podcast


New and Improved video for YouTube


My first YouTube vlog


Anna's Day (December 9, Sweden)

According to (the official gateway to Sweden) the 9th of December is known as Anna's Day, though I was unable to find out why.  In the past this was the day the Christmas Brew would be ready and when you would start to prepare the lutfisk that would be eaten on Christmas.  
For those unfamiliar with lutfisk, it is a white fish that gets soaked in lye with kind of a jelly consistency.  It has a very strong small and taste.  Typically it is made in a white sauce and poured over potatoes.  For many it is considered very unpleasant.  Either a person does not or does like lutfisk, there is no middle of the ground.  I have actually heard that either they don't like it or they lie about liking it.  A story I heard years ago describes it best I think.
A family is sitting down together for the Christmas meal and a grandfather and grandson are sitting next to each other.  The lutfisk gets to the grandfather who loads up his potatoes with it.  When he filially passes it to the grandson, the grandson just starts to pass it on and the grandfather stops him saying
"You have to eat your lutfisk"
Grandson "but I don't like it"
Grandfather whispers "oh course you don't like it, everyone hates lutfisk"
Grandson "then why do we eat it?"
Grandfather whispers again "If we don't pretend to like lutfisk, how can we prove to the rest of the world we are the best?"
This brings back many memories for me personally.  My heritage is half Swedish and that side had only been in the United States for a few generations, so there where a number of traditions that we still followed that came from the "old country".  The one that stands out most in my mind is going to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve and having a mostly traditional Scandinavian dinner.  The two highlights where lefse with lingonberrys and lutfisk.  In all honesty I can not verify that it does have this strong smell and taste, I actually love it.  Though I have had many people, including my family, who says it does, apparently the whole house will smell of it and some people cannot even go inside.  Of course now we have to hide this from the true Swedes as they don't even eat it and laugh at us Swedish Americans that do.
I know what you are thinking "I must have some of this, where can I get it?", sorry to disappoint you but it is not widely available, except in places like Minnesota where I grew up.  Now of course living in Tennessee the fish monger at a good grocery store said that he had been working in the business for 15 years and never heard of it.  We would go so far as having someone go on an 18 hour drive to bring some back so we could have it.
But if you get the chance you should try it, I am sure you wont like it and I can not understand that but it will be an experience that you can say you have had for the rest of your life.