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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Following Shrove Tuesday yesterday, today is Ash Wednesday, the official first day of Lent during the Christian year and the prelude to Easter.  Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting and contemplating his mission on earth. Known as the ‘Day of Ashes’ because of the practice of having ash rubbed &  drawn on the forehead in the shape of a cross (representing Christ’s crucifixion), by a priest at the  dedicated Ash Wednesday church service. The priest and participants from the church congregation intone the phrase either the words:-

“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or  the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”       

Anglican,Catholic and most Protestant and Christians hold Ash Wednesday services around the world. Following the service, participants observe some sort of fasting,abstinence and spiritual contemplation for 40 Days, ending on Maundy Thursday in 2018.

The practice of using  ash comes from the 11th Century and is taken from the Biblical Book of Daniel, where ashes are regarded as a sign of Penance & fasting. The ashes are normally made by the burning of palm crosses. These palm crosses were  handed out to  church congregations during the previous year’s Palm Sunday service (commemorating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to crowds waving palm leaves in celebration) and given back to the priest shortly before Ash Wednesday. The priest will then burn the crosses and mix the ash normally with Holy Oil to sanctify and make a ‘paste’ with which to rub on the participant’s forehead.

Shrove Tuesday

shrove-tuesday1Today is shrove Tuesday, which has now become better known as Pancake Day.

What is Shrove Tuesday about?  Has it become just a day of cooking and tossing pancakes?

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of merriment and feasting before Lent begins in earnest.

But in truth and in its history, today is about penitence.  Shrove Tuesday got its name from the ritual of shriving, which early Christians used to do.

The act of shriving meant that Christians would confess their sins and their shortcomings and in so doing will receive absolutions.

Absolution means the person will be forgiven of his sins and released from his guilt and pain that he had caused.

This tradition is very old.

Shrove Tuesday

It was a custom and tradition of the early Christians to confess their sins a week before the start of Lent to their priest/confessor, who shall so shrive them.

Today is not only about pancake but a time to think about the wrong deeds that we have done or have continued  doing.  We must be penitent of them.

On the happier side, Shrove Tuesday is also about partying and feasting.  Time to cook and serve all the foods that may have to be given up for the sober Lent to come. Barbecue the meat and fish and make pastas so no food are wasted for the coming Lent.  Today is like a Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday.

Pancake became the ideal food for Tuesday because it uses up all the fats, milk and eggs with the addition of flour.





Simbang Gabi (Philippine Christmas Tradition)


Binondo Church, Manila Philippines, Photo by JMorton

Simbang Gabi (Philippine Christmas Tradition)

Simband Gabi is a tradition of the Roman Catholics of the the Philippines. It is going to church to attend mass from midnight or early hours in the morning.

This mass at dawn is a nine-day devotional religious and cultural tradition which starts on 16 December and ending on the 24th of December.  These series of masses herald the coming of Christmas as well as a homage to the Virgin Mary.

After the mass, people are entised by the smell of freshly clay-oven baked bibingka  and puto bungbong, washed down by salabat (ginger tea).

Simbang gabi is still popularly practise to these days.


Santa Claus is Coming to Town


Decor on Sale at John Lewis, Iphoto by JMorton

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Here comes Santa, photo by JMorton
It is December!
It is officially Christmas Season.
Give Love of Christmas.
It is the time to send Christmas cards to nearest and dearest, including to those often forgotten and overlooked relatives and acquaintances. 🙂
It is time to set up the Christmas Tree.
It is time to buy presents and gift, know your budget.
It is time to party.
It is the to visit the relatives.
And most important of all it is the time to celebrate a most spiritual Birthday of all.
Happy Birthday to our Lord, Jesus!

Christmas Songs, World’s Favourite

Christmas Arch, Photo by PH Morton

Christmas Songs, World’s Favourite

Apparently, below is a list of world’s favourite Christmas songs, is your personal choice on the list below? 🙂

50 Best Christmas songs (according to PRS for Music) in full (position, artist, year, writer)

  1. Fairytale of New York, The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl, 1987 Jem Finer, Shane MacGowan
  2. All I Want For Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey 1994 Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
  3. Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid 1984, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure
  4. Last Christmas, Wham! 1984 George Michael
  5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town Harry Reser 1934 John Fredrick Coots, Haven Gillespie
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear? Bing Crosby 1962 Noel Regney, Gloria Shayne
  7. Happy Christmas (War Is Over), John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir 1971 John Lennon, Yoko Ono
  8. Wonderful Christmastime, Paul McCartney 1979, Paul McCartney
  9. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, Wizzard 1973 Roy Wood
  10. Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade 1973, Noddy Holder, Jim Lea
  11. Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin’ Stevens 1985, Bob Heatlie
  12. Sleigh Ride, Leroy Anderson, 1950, Leroy Anderson
  13. Stay Another Day, East 17, 1994 Tony Mortimer
  14. Driving Home For Christmas, Chris Rea, 1988, Chris Rea
  15. Rockin Around The Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee, 1958, Johnny Marks
  16. Step Into Christmas, Elton John, 1973 Elton John, Bernie Taupin
  17. 2000 Miles, The Pretenders, 1983 Chrissie Hynde
  18. I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter, Connie Francis / Gabriella Cilmi 1962 / 2008 Hank Hunter, Mark Barkan
  19. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Darlene Love 1963 Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector
  20. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, Vaughn Monroe / Dean Martin / Smokey Robinson & The Miracles 1945 / 1959 / 1963 Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne
  21. Stop The Calvary, Jona Lewie, 1980, Jona Lewie
  22. Frosty The Snowman, Gene Autry & The Cass Country Boys / Perry Como / Johnny Mathis / Kimberley Locke 1950 / 1957 / 2003 / 2007 Walter “Jack” Rollins, Steve Nelson
  23. White Christmas, Bing Crosby, 1942, Irving Berlin
  24. I Believe In Father Christmas, Greg Lake / Toyah Wilcox / Elaine Paige 1975 / 1982 / 1986 Greg Lake / Peter Sinfield
  25. Christmas Lights, Coldplay, 2010, Guy Berryman, Johnny Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin
  26. Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), The Nat King Cole Trio, 1946 Mel Tormé, Bob Wells
  27. Thank God It’s Christmas, Queen, 1984 Brain May, Roger Taylor
  28. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of Year, Andy Williams 1963 Edward Pola, George Wyle
  29. Santa Baby, Eartha Kitt, 1953, Joahn Javits, Phillip Springer
  30. Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses, 1981, Chris Butler
  31. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Frank Sinatra, 1957, Ralph Blanew, Hugh Martin
  32. Please Come Home For Christmas, Charles Brown, The Eagles, Jon Bon Jovi 1961 / 1978 / 1995 Charles Brown, Gene Redd
  33. Spaceman Came Travelling, Chris de Burgh, 1976, Chris de Burgh
  34. A Winter’s Tale, David Essex, 1982, Mike Batt / Tim Rice
  35. Lonely This Christmas, MUD, 1974 Nicky Chinn, Mike Chapman
  36. Cold December, Night Michael Bublé 2011 Michael Bublé, Alan Chang, Bob Rock
  37. Mistletoe And Wine, Cliff Richard, 1988, Jeremy Paul, Leslie Stewart, Keith Strachan
  38. Merry Christmas, Bryan Adams, 2011, Bryan Adams
  39. Christmas Time – Don’t Let The Bells End, The Darkness 2003 Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain, Ed Graham
  40. Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord, Boney M, 1978 Jester Hairston, Frank Farian, Fred Jay, Lorin
  41. Power Of Love, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984 Peter Gill, Holly Johnson, Mark O’Toole
  42. Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley, 1957, Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson
  43. When A Child Is Born (Soleado) Johnny Mathis 1976 Ciro Dammiccom, Fred Jay
  44. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autry 1949 Johnny Marks
  45. Winter Wonderland, Perry Como, 1934, Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith
  46. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Jimmy Boyd, 1952, Tommie Connor
  47. Mary’s Boy Child, Harry Belafonte, 1957, Jester Hairston
  48. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Perry Como & The Fontana Sisters 1951 Meredith Wilson
  49. The Little Drummer Boy, Harry Simeone Chorale 1958 Harry Simeone, K. K. Davis, Henry Onorati
  50. We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Additional favourite (Mine):

Kissing Bow – Romantic Christmas

Kissing Bow – Romantic Christmas

Let’s make Christmas that extra more fun and I dare say romantic as well.  Forget mistletoe, let’s have a kissing bow.

Making one will bring out the artistic side in you.

Add anything you want like apples, grapes, garland of ivy, tinsels, etc.  You are only constraint by your imagination.  Hold these together with a wire coat hanger.

Blue Peter’s John Noakes with the Advent Crown

If you are familiar with Children BBC’s Blue Peter, then a kissing bow should be a doddle.

Making a kissing bow is pretty similar with building and creating the  Advent Crown.

Another thing to add to this kissing bow to highlight it are lights.  Thank goodness you can have a fire-proof battery operated Christmas lights now widely available in the market for a pound or two.

Sungka – Filipino Mancala Game

Sungka Board, photo by JMorton

Sungka – Filipino Mancala Game

I used to be obsessed with this board game when I was a little girl.

For whatever reason my mother used to discourage us playing sungka.  She was really adamant that we should not play it.  I think I heard her say that it was a game of the dead or something.  She made it sound like there was something sinister about it.

But I’ve  always  had a mind of my own, and the more I was told ‘NO’ the more I had to do it; it was like a red rag to a bull to me, a fascination of the forbidden. 🙂  I was a tad naughty!  LOL

Probably that was the reason I loved playing sungka.   I used to ask a neighbour, Lagring, who was a year or two younger than me to play sungka.   We did not bother with the wooden board; at my instigation we would just dig little holes similar to those in the wooden board on the ground under our mango tree.  We would then gather little stones and away we play for what seems like hours.  🙂

My mother always knew what I was up to as I would come home with dirty hands and even dirtier finger nails.  And of course those little holes which suddenly appeared all over our backyard!  🙂

In the end, knowing that I would not really listen, she just gave up on her embargo against sungka.  Funnily enough as soon as the ban was lifted I moved on to another obsession, Jack’s Stone!  🙂

By the way the photo above was taken at late president Ferdinand Marcos childhood residence in Batac, Ilocos Norte.  It seemed President Marcos used to play sungka as well.  🙂

Click here to see a quick tutorial.

I actually want one for Christmas, thank goodness they are easily available here.

Christmas’ Forgotten List

Christmas Decor
Photo by JMorton

The item that would really worry me that I forgot to buy for Christmas is the battery. I remember one Christmas when I bought all these beautiful remote controlled toys for my son.

On Christmas morning, he can’t play with them because of the missing batteries. I saw how bravely he was trying to hide his disappointment but it did break my heart.

Now I always ensure that we have batteries for Christmas.

The next item is the tin foil, the aluminium wrap, to cover the turkey. Stress….

Then running out of gravy granules, that is total disaster. I like my roast swimming in gravy.

Christmas’ Forgotten List

Below is the top 10 forgotten items.  Hope this will be a reminder to make Christmas painless and extra special.

Top 10 forgotten Christmas items:

1.    Batteries
2.    Sellotape
3.    Crackers
4.    Gift tags
5.    Cranberry sauce
6.    Wrapping paper
7.    Pigs in blankets
8.    Napkins
9.    Beer
10.  Gravy

Please let us know your forgotten item or items and we will add it to our list.

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

Life size mortar and pestle, photo by JMorton

Agbayo (Life Size Mortar & Pestle)

The above photo was taken in Ferdinand Marcos’s Batac ancestral house.  It was used when he was obviously younger as the mortar shows sign of erosion or depreciation.

Having lived in a farming community when I was a young girl, this life-size mortar and pestle is a familiar sight.

It was used in many things that needed pulping like my favourite sweet rice dessert called nilupak or dehusking palay, especially when going to a rice mill is a bit of a hustle.

The term used by Ilocanos, people of Northern Luzon, is agbayo, which means to pound.

Rice comes from palay grains, and if you only wanted a chupa or a ganta of rice, most Ilocanos would probably use a pestle and mortar to pound the palay to dehusk and turn into rice which then ready to cook.

Pounding rice is sometimes more than just a chore.  It can be a way of bonding with friends and family.

I used to help my cousins when they were pounding in the mortar.  Usually there are extra pestles around and two or three people can pound together but take turn.  It is a matter of timing.  It was a lot of fun though can be hard work.  Having someone to help makes this arduous repetitive task less of a chore.

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