Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!

In Chinese lunar calendar year 2017 is a year of the Fire Rooster. It begins on January 28, 2017 and ends on February 15, 2018. 

Rooster is one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. Chinese Buddhists tell the story of a feast given by the Buddha. They believe that rooster was the tenth animal to arrive at the feast.

A probably much older story talks about the legendary Jade Emperor who wished to select twelve animals as his guards. He sent an Immortal down to Earth with a message that whichever animal came first through the Heavenly Gate his rank will be the highest. And so, twelve animals rushed to serve the Jade Emperor and the rooster arrived right after the monkey as the tenth in a raw. 

In Chinese astrology zodiac signs are combined with the Taoist theory of Five Elements. Each animal sign appears every twelve years, but only every sixty years in each of its aspects. Metal, water, wood, fire, and earth determine a special quality of each animal. The current cycle is dominated by the fire element, thus the Fire Rooster. Celebrate as much as you can! The Rooster will be back in twelve years, but the next Fire Rooster will appear in 2077!

The Chinese believe that both, the zodiac signs and the elements affect destiny and personality of a person born under them. The quality of the year to come also depends on this combination. 

Roosters are believed to be hardworking, courageous, and very resourceful. They thrive in the company of others and enjoy to be in the center of attention. People born in the year of the Fire Rooster are considered to have a strong sense of duty and responsibility, and are trustworthy. They make good public servants. 

Interestingly, the rooster years are considered unlucky for the people born in the year of a rooster. Destiny of everybody else in the rooster year depends on their own birth year and how their personal zodiac animal interacts with the rooster. These predictions are often very complex and involve an astrologer or geomancer who would make proper calculations and create individual horoscopes. 

In Chinese astrology rooster is a very lucky sign that is associated with punctuality, competitiveness, bravery, and prosperity. 

In an ancient commentary to the Book of Songs dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) rooster had five virtues: literature, military prowess, courage, benevolence, and trustworthiness. These virtues will determine the quality of the year to come. The fire element adds a little urgency to the mix. Fire destroys the old, creates the new. It brings warmth and illumination (light), energy and clarity.

2017 will be a year of creativity and prosperity. With the inauguration of a new president, America will restore its military prowess and trustworthiness. People that have been forgotten or neglected by the previous administrations (ex. the Veterans) will experience a new wave of benevolence. 

If you want to succeed in 2017, you have to be diligent, courageous, and inventive. Like a rooster, you will have to wake up early and do your chores. Your prosperity will not come overnight, but your work will bring fruit that you will eventually be able to enjoy.

Wishing everyone Happy Chinese New Year
and a very prosperous Year of the Fire Rooster!
Dominique Allmon


Dominique Allmon©2017


Images courtesy of James W. Allmon whose artwork is featured here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Letter to Sarah

My very dear Sarah

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death - and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar - that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night - amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
Camp Clark, Washington

The following is a letter written by Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah (née Shumway) at home in Rhode Island.  Ballou died a week later, at the First Battle of Bull Run.  He was 32.

Excerpts from this letter were read by Senate Minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York) at the Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States.

Letter source here

Thursday, January 5, 2017

La Galette des Rois Or The Kings' Cake

Galette des Roi, known in English as the King Cake or the Kings' Cake, is a famous French dessert traditionally prepared on the Twelfth Night (January 5th) or the Christian holiday of Epiphany (January 6th) to celebrate the visit of three Wise Men (the Magi or Kings) to the newly born Baby Jesus.

The King Cake tradition began some three hundred years ago with a rather simple sugar-covered bread, but most probably has its roots in the Roman feast of Saturnalia. A single broad bean (la fève) was inserted before baking. The lucky person who found the bean in his or her slice of cake would become a Bean King or Queen and would reign over the feast. The reign would end at midnight before Epiphany.

With time, king cake recipes became more sophisticated. Around 1870 bakers replaced the broad bean with a trinket called la fève like the bean it replaced.  The trinket usually was a small figurine representing Baby Jesus, a King, or the Wise Men. The season for the cake would last from the Twelfth Night till the end of the Carnival on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras.

The cake was usually cut into as many portions as guests, plus one for the unexpected visitor, to show generosity, charity and benevolence in the best Christian tradition. That extra slice was called a share of God, or a share of Virgin Mary. 

There are many versions of the cake, depending on the country or the region where the cake is baked. Two versions are popular in France today: one that uses puff pastry and frangipane (almond pastry cream) and another that is made out of brioche-like dough and is topped with colorful candied fruit and sugar. Pastry shops usually sell the king cake with a paper crown for the person who finds the trinket.

Eastern or Orthodox Churches celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6th. I some parts of Europe (Poland, for example) Epiphany is also the last day people enjoy the Christmas tree. All the lights and decorations are taken down the next day and the trees are tossed away. The magic of Christmas may be gone, but there are at least a few more weeks to enjoy during the Carnival.

Dominique Allmon

Image source here