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A LIFETIME OF HAMS  
From then to now, ham has always been a part of Filipino Christmas tradition.

Raised by farmers and fishermen, my maternal grandparents never outgrew their peasant upbringing, particularly in food matters. Daily meals revolved around fish and vegetables while meat and poultry were served only on Sundays. This menu pattern was broken only during Christmas and New Year season, when legs of ham literally rained upon our family from Chinese suppliers of paint, sheet metal, and hardware in Binondo for lolo’s jeepney factory. Pinoy Ingenuity Our ham cookout would usually begin weeks before Christmas, when vegetable oil retailers at the Zapote market were approached for hamempty metal cans, each large enough to hold an entire leg of ham. Since holiday meals would normally include at least 30 family members, spanning three generations, we would often prepare two hams. And this was how we did it. READ FULL STORY...

ALSO: Top Wacky Christmas Traditions From Around the World  

PHOTO: Arrival of the Three Kings (the Philippines)The Filipinos love Christmas, to the point where Christmas time begins as early as September and ends as late as January. It is a common practice to adorn many stores and homes with Christmas décor as early as September. Also, children and adults start caroling as early as October. With all this time to celebrate, it’s not surprising that they would invent some crazy ways to pass the time. Perhaps the craziest is how Santa means almost nothing to them. For hundreds of years, the Three Kings were the primary givers and bringers of presents in the Philippines. Children would place their clean socks and polished shoes on the windows of their homes, in the hopes that the three kings would put gifts inside them on their way to Bethlehem. There are even some kids who would put grass or straw on their windows for the camels to eat, just in case they get hungry during their journey. Unfortunately, this peculiar tradition is barely practiced nowadays. Thanks to the influence of American culture, Santa is fast becoming an important figure in Philippine Christmas. READ MORE...


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A Lifetime of Hams
From then to now, ham has always been a part of Filipino Christmas tradition.

MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Sol Vanzi -  Raised by farmers and fishermen, my maternal grandparents never outgrew their peasant upbringing, particularly in food matters.

Daily meals revolved around fish and vegetables while meat and poultry were served only on Sundays.

This menu pattern was broken only during Christmas and New Year season, when legs of ham literally rained upon our family from Chinese suppliers of paint, sheet metal, and hardware in Binondo for lolo’s jeepney factory.

Pinoy Ingenuity

Our ham cookout would usually begin weeks before Christmas, when vegetable oil retailers at the Zapote market were approached for ham-empty metal cans, each large enough to hold an entire leg of ham. Since holiday meals would normally include at least 30 family members, spanning three generations, we would often prepare two hams. And this was how we did it.

First, the legs were removed from their Manila paper wrap before sawing off the knuckles which were reserved for future nilagang baka and callos dishes. The unsightly, often thought of as harmless mold on it was scrubbed off with a brass brush. Stubborn mold spots were simply sliced off.

Soak, Soak, Soak

The hams were then soaked in several changes of tepid water for two days and two nights, boiled in fresh water for 20 minutes, and scrubbed for the last time.

Drained, the leg was simmered for several hours in water, flavored with 7-Up, beer, lemon grass, laurel leaves, cinnamon bark, cloves, and a handful of whole peppercorns.

An entire pineapple was chopped, skin and all, and added for acidity. Once the ham skin was fork tender, the heat was turned off and the leg was allowed to cool in the cooking liquid. Once cold enough to handle, the pork skin was peeled off and reserved for use in future dishes.

Spatula Glaze

Lacking an oven, grandma glazed the cooked ham using a red-hot metal spatula sprinkled with brown sugar and pressed on the ham. The thick spatula, called syanse, was bought and used for only that purpose and was often borrowed by neighbors when it was their turn to cook ham.

Imitating magazine photos of American hams, grandma scored the ham fat and inserted whole cloves in a diamond pattern, both for flavor as well as for appearance. We would feast on the ham for breakfast, use it for sandwiches, and add it to fried rice.

By the Feast of the Three Kingson Jan. 6, we’d be scraping the last bits of meat from the bones that would go into a large pot and become the main flavoring for macaroni soup.

The Weber Smoker

Marrying an American only served to increase my fascination with ham, which I worked hard to learn to make from scratch.

With veterinarian syringe and hypodermic needle from Bambang Street’s medical stores, I eventually succeeded in producing hams of various flavors, shapes, and sizes, which I roasted in a gas oven.

Inevitably, I graduated to a real Weber charcoal smoker, large enough to smoke a turkey or a dozen whole chickens. The smoker allowed me to host parties for 50 or more guests with no helper.

Though my smoked hams have earned raves, deep inside, I long for my grandma’s boiled and glazed, salty-sweet, sticky Chinese ham.


Top Wacky Christmas Traditions From Around the World POSTED BY PAUL JONGKO ON DECEMBER 17, 2013 IN HOLIDAYS

Arrival of the Three Kings (the Philippines)


philippines-feast-of-three-kings

The Filipinos love Christmas, to the point where Christmas time begins as early as September and ends as late as January. It is a common practice to adorn many stores and homes with Christmas décor as early as September. Also, children and adults start caroling as early as October.

With all this time to celebrate, it’s not surprising that they would invent some crazy ways to pass the time. Perhaps the craziest is how Santa means almost nothing to them.

For hundreds of years, the Three Kings were the primary givers and bringers of presents in the Philippines. Children would place their clean socks and polished shoes on the windows of their homes, in the hopes that the three kings would put gifts inside them on their way to Bethlehem.

There are even some kids who would put grass or straw on their windows for the camels to eat, just in case they get hungry during their journey.

Unfortunately, this peculiar tradition is barely practiced nowadays. Thanks to the influence of American culture, Santa is fast becoming an important figure in Philippine Christmas.

The Santa Claus Olympics (Switzerland)


Santa-Claus-World-Championships

Christmas is celebrated in various ways throughout the world, many of which are not your typical tree-presents-nog setup the majority of us have come to expect. Some of the ways that we as a people celebrate the most festive time of year are completely bizarre, intriguing and, in some cases, completely disturbing. Such as …

Who says Santa Claus is an old fat dude incapable of achieving physical feats?

In Switzerland, hundreds of aspiring Santa Clauses gather to compete in the annual Santa World Championships. This bizarre-yet-fun festival consist of the usual things the jolly elf does during Christmas, like singing, dancing, sleigh racing, snow sculpturing, and climbing chimneys.

This unusual tradition is held in a small town called Samnaun, where Italy, Austria and Switzerland converge. Every year, people from around the world gather in this small town and compete in the hopes that they will be crowned the strongest, most physically fit Santa Claus around. Anyone can join this festive tradition, as long as they’re 18 years old, a kid at heart, and most importantly of all, absolutely shameless. Also, bring along three friends, as this bit of gleeful horseplay is strictly a team sport.

Burning of Thorns (Iraq)


thorns

Yes, Christmas is celebrated in Iraq, and the Christians there have a very peculiar Christmas tradition they’d like you to know about. During Christmas Eve, Iraqi children read the story of Jesus’ birth from an Arabic Bible. The parents and other members of the family solemnly listen while holding lighted candles in their hands. After the story has been told, one of the family members light up a pile of thorns while the others sing a hymn. After the thorns have completely burned, all members of the family must jump over the burned pile three times before they can make a Christmas wish.

Christian families in Iraq perform this peculiar tradition as a means to foretell the fortune of their families for the next year. If the pile of thorns completely turns into ashes, then all of the members of the family will receive blessings or experience good fortunes the next year.

Leftovers for the Dead (Bulgaria)


leftovers

This bizarre Bulgarian Christmas tradition is quite similar to the one commonly practiced in Portugal called “consoda.” In Portugal, families set extra places on the table on the morning of Christmas Day, as a means for them to pay their respect to the dead. In essence, they’re inviting the ghosts of their loved ones to come and dine with them.

In Bulgaria, it’s quite different. Bulgarian families would have dinner on Christmas Eve but, unlike the Portuguese, only the living are invited. However, once the families have finished their meals, they are not allowed to clear the table. All the leftovers and dishes are left as they are on the table, and nothing is touched or cleaned. It is generally believed that the ghosts of the family’s loved ones arrive after everyone else has gone to bed, to feast on the leftovers on the table.

Throwing Food at the Ceiling (Slovakia and Ukraine)


loksa

Among all the traditions discussed in this list, this one, observed in some parts of Slovakia and Ukraine, is perhaps the messiest. In these countries, it’s expected for people to throw food at the ceiling on Christmas Eve. And no, they don’t consider it a waste, but rather as a means of measuring their forthcoming blessings.

During Christmas Eve, Ukranian and Slovakian families have typical Christmas dinners. However, before they start eating their meals, the head of the family takes a small amount of Loksa (a traditional food made from water, bread, and poppy seed) and throws it up at the ceiling. Those who do this believe that the Loksa serves as a means for them to predict how big or rich their crops will be the following year. The more Loksa that sticks, the bigger and richer the crops will be the next year.

Advent of the Masked Visitors (Latvia)


latvian-mummers

We don’t normally associate Christmas with evil spirits. For us, the Yuletide Season is about gift-giving, family and friendships, and peace and goodwill. However, in Latvia, Christmas is that special time of the year dedicated to driving away bad spirits, in a tradition known as “mumming.” Those who participate in this practice are called “mummers.” Mummers dress up in various costumes like fortune-tellers, wolves, cranes, goats, bears, or horses. There are even those who choose to dress up as Death. They then roam around going from house to house.

Families anticipate the arrival of the mummers, since it is generally believed that they posses power over evil spirits. They warmly welcome and invite them inside their homes, but before they can enter, they need to dance and sing. Once inside, the mummers are given food and beer.

What makes this tradition more bizarre is that the mummers need to modify their voices and disguise their mannerisms. If they are correctly identified by any of the family members, they need to take off their masks.




Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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