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Thanksgiving bloglibumneduHappy Thanksgiving to all my American readers … 

… wherever you might be experiencing lockdown.

I wish all of you a good day, however different it might be in 2020.

Lately, I’ve been watching Howie Carr every weekday on YouTube to find out how the election results are going.

Even now, Joe Biden is not yet president-elect. For the media, he is more like the president-select (all credit to Howie).

President Trump still occupies that spot, at least until January 2021, at least.

As I wrote this post, he rightly had a go at General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis:

He highlighted Wisconsin’s suspicious election results …

… and pointed out a fact about the 27 House races that notional experts said Republicans would lose. Republicans won all 27:

He rightly celebrated the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching 30,000 for the first time in history. Never let it be said that this was Joe Biden’s doing. It was Donald Trump’s policies that made this beautiful record landmark possible.

This is the ninth stock market record in 2020 and the 48th of the Trump administration:

President Trump pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey, a tradition that began in the 1860s during Abraham Lincoln’s administration when his son made friends with a turkey the Lincolns were planning to eat for Thanksgiving.

This year, a beautiful bird, Corn, came from Ames, Iowa, with his friend Cob — Corn and Cob, corncob — for the ceremony. They returned to Ames afterwards with the farmer who bred them:

Now back to Howie Carr, who also covers the latest coronavirus news on a daily basis.

Pity Americans who have to put up with Dr Anthony Fauci. Even Britons roll their eyes at his advice.

A disgusted English friend of mine scorned Fauci’s ‘don’t kill Granny’ advice. I shook my head at ‘a quarter of a million deaths’, which were revised downward drastically during the summer as being deaths with COVID and not of COVID. There’s a big difference:

Back to the ‘killing Granny’ narrative — this is the other side of the story for many elderly with younger family members:

Too right.

Here’s another choice morsel from Fauci:

I would love to know what Fauci is doing for Thanksgiving, but he doesn’t have a Twitter account and it is too painful listening to his idiocy.

As I write on Tuesday, Howie has been reading out the American resistance to lockdowns and restrictions from news articles. These detail how the great and the good have been dictating, sometimes under penalty of law, how people like you and me should live our lives with an illness that has the same fatality rates as the flu. Note that this does not mean coronavirus is synonymous with flu.

Never mind Fauci. American governors have become more brazen and authoritarian with every passing day, no more so than at one of the sacrosanct, inviolable national holidays: Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated this year on Thursday, November 26.

Let us make the rounds, coast to coast, to see what these governors have been doing, starting on what used to be known as the Eastern seaboard.

Massachusetts

Republican — actually, RINO — governor Charlie Baker (Joe Biden calls him Charlie Parker) has been issuing various prohibitions for ages.

This is his advice to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (as it is officially known) for Thanksgiving, the kick-off to the holiday season, which ends in the US on New Year’s Day. I enjoyed the response to Baker’s advice — well said:

New York

Let’s move somewhat south to New York State.

Howie Carr plays the best clips of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo’s monologues sound as if they are clips from horror movies until Howie says that they’re the governor’s pronouncements. Scary.

I don’t have any of those audio clips, but Cuomo’s tweets about Thanksgiving are unintentionally amusing.

Before I go there, however, let’s look back to the beginning of the month, two days before the election on Tuesday, November 3.

There was a massive Trump car rally on the bridge named for his father, Mario Cuomo.

As far as I am concerned, the Governor Mario M Cuomo Bridge will always be the TAPPAN ZEE BRIDGE.

This was held in the rain. I embraced the enthusiasm and wished I could have been there:

The current Gov Cuomo, a Dem, as was his father, does not like the fact that President Trump has been able to announce two coronavirus vaccines:

On Friday, November 20, a group of business owners in Buffalo, upstate near Canada, told sheriffs and one or more notional health inspectors to get lost.

Gateway Pundit reported, in part, that the business owners were in a gym. Gyms are/were currently closed because of the Chi-vi (emphases mine below):

Business owners in Buffalo, New York fed up with Cuomo’s authoritarian Covid lockdown orders asserted their Constitutional rights and kicked out sheriffs and “health inspectors” on Friday night.

50 business owners gathered inside of a shuttered gym in Buffalo, New York Friday night when two sheriffs and a so-called ‘health inspector’ showed up to harass the group in response to an “anonymous tip.”

The business owners shouted down and kicked out the health inspector and the told the sheriffs to come back with a warrant.

Well done!

The story comes from the Buffalo News.

This brings us to Thanksgiving.

Cuomo warned New Yorkers to stay at home within their own households, so much so that the New York Post reported that there are big window decals with a photo of Cuomo snooping in people’s homes, accompanied by an image of a turkey.

Interestingly, the company that makes the decals is also located in Buffalo:

One upstate company wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be the biggest turkey at your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The Buffalo-based design firm Custom 716 is selling stickers of the governor’s face that can be put on a window to make it look like Cuomo is peering inside — presumably to make sure not too many people are there to celebrate the holiday this year.

The sticker is a clear way of ripping Cuomo for demanding that New York families avoid gathering in large groups for the holiday out of fears of spreading COVID-19.

“Great for all gatherings, sure to get laughs, great for your business or your home!” they write about the $10 sticker on their firm’s website.

“$10 and I will mail it to you for free, or pick up is available. Located in North Tonawanda, NY,” the description reads, offering a promo code allowing customers to bypass the $8.05 shipping and handling fee.

Cuomo has been begging New Yorkers to spend Turkey Day alone, warning the coronavirus’s rapid spread has increased in part thanks to small, indoor gatherings in recent months as the weather has turned slightly chillier.

“It’s your family, it’s your home, it’s your table — these are all environments where you feel safe and that’s the beauty of Thanksgiving,” he said during a phone conference briefing with reporters Thursday.

“Your safe zone is not a safe zone, your safe zone is dangerous this year.”

When you hear the audio of him saying that (thanks to Howie), it sends chills down the spine.

Fortunately:

politicians and law enforcement agents across the state … argue it’s nearly impossible to enforce caps on indoor, private gatherings.

At the time, Cuomo included himself in that diktat:

However, a few days later, Andrew Cuomo announced big plans for a family get together. Hmm, interesting:

Here’s a tweet, including a photo of the snoop decal from Buffalo. Note the ‘for thee, but not for me’ response from someone living in Governor Pritzker’s fiefdom of Illinois (see below):

Howie Carr said on Tuesday, November 24 that Cuomo got so much blow back from New Yorkers that his family’s plans for a communal turkey dinner changed. One of his daughters would not be attending (H/T Gateway Pundit):

Aww.

Also:

His daughter, wearing a tee shirt with ‘New York tough’ emblazoned across it, tweeted:

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo abruptly canceled his Thanksgiving plans Monday, less than two hours after revealing he planned to spend the holiday with his mother and two of his daughters.

During a radio interview Monday around 3:45 p.m., Cuomo revealed his “current plan” for the holiday: His 89-year-old mother, Matilda, and two of his three daughters, Michaela and Cara, are planning on joining him in Albany.

By 5:30 p.m., Cuomo nixed the gathering entirely.

Good.

Hypocrisy is most unbecoming.

New Jersey

Just west of New York, across the Hudson River, New Jersey’s governor Phil Murphy was accosted by angry diners when he was eating out with his family and appearing without a mask. New Jersey has had a particularly arduous lockdown.

Remember, Phil Murphy won’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from. The taxpayers are footing his bill:

Murphy, who, Howie Carr says, attended the same high school and college as Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker, is still trying to frighten his state’s residents:

His wife is at it, too:

I couldn’t agree more about the gaslighting.

North Carolina

Moving several hundred miles south, North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper approves of business closures in Greensboro:

On Monday, November 23, he issued a Thanksgiving sermonette on the ‘stay at home’ theme, most of which follows. Like the UK, he has a colour-based ‘tier’ designation:

With that sort of warning, what North Carolina resident could possibly want to go through with (gasp) a family or friend oriented Thanksgiving dinner?

Amazingly, people in North Carolina have not been able to attend church — or any sort of celebration — for nine months. He has the nerve to tell them to keep it up ‘just a bit longer’ — for November 2021. Good grief:

Governor Cooper has even better news for the run-up to Christmas:

Excellent response.

Illinois

Let’s travel around 1,000 miles northwest to Illinois.

Governor JB Pritzker comes from a family of real estate moguls. As one would expect, he can escape Illinois, lovely as it is, to take a break at family properties elsewhere.

Last summer, he defied his own executive order to take part in a protest in Chicago. Pritzker is the man in the blue and white checked shirt in the second photo below:

More recently, Howie Carr said that Pritzker’s immediate family have been spotted at their Florida farm which has horses that his children can ride. Howie, now a Florida resident, lives in the vicinity.

Hmm.

A Republican congressman from Illinois called out Pritzker:

Someone replied:

Fortunately, Pritzker’s and Illinois’s directives, such as these …

… are being ignored. Just look at Chicago’s O’Hare airport:

Well done!

Gee, 20 years on, the TSA still have their checkpoint. Why didn’t President Trump ever repeal the Patriot Act? ‘There’s a there there’, no doubt.

For those Illinois residents who will not be travelling for Thanksgiving, there is no absolution if you live in Chicago. On November 15, a spokeswoman from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said, ‘You are the problem; you are putting everyone at risk’ (see the 11-second mark):

Yet, anecdotally, the vast majority of Chicagoans are wearing masks:

Speaking of masks:

Chicago — the Windy City — which is also darned chilly at this time of year, is pushing OUTDOOR dining in a TWO-sided tent!

You could not make this advice up:

As for Thanksgiving dinners, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has cancelled them. She is pictured in the photo above with Governor Pritzker at a June 2020 protest. Note that CNN has not shown the official US COVID-19 death count, which is still at ‘with’ + ‘of’, as it was last summer:

Interestingly, during lockdown in April, Madame Mayor felt compelled to get her hair cut when she had told ordinary Chicagoans that hairdressing was non-essential. See the Daily Mail report from April 12, complete with photo of her with her hairdresser, no social distancing required.

Washington

Let’s leave the Midwest for the West Coast, starting in the most northern state, Washington, home to Seattle, the site of much summer mayhem.

Governor Jay Inslee, who did not oppose said summer mayhem, is now telling Washington residents not to get together for Thanksgiving. This advert is unbelievable:

COVID-19 can find you everywhere! Woo-oo!

Inslee thanks Washington residents for not celebrating one of America’s two most historic holidays this year. The reply is excellent:

Oregon

The state immediately south of Washington is Oregon.

There Governor Kate Brown is all in for the deadly coronavirus narrative, especially at Thanksgiving:

On Monday, November 23, she asked for Oregonians to snitch on each other at Thanksgiving.

Hot Air has the story, first reported in the Washington Times. Reporter Jazz Shaw says:

I guess nobody told Oregon Governor Kate Brown about the old rule regarding snitches and stitches. With the holidays fast approaching and an increasing number of citizens growing tired of government mandates forbidding them from gathering with friends and family to celebrate, Brown is concerned that people may simply ignore her orders and gather around the feast table anyway. So what’s an autocratic executive to do? The answer is as simple as pumpkin pie. She’d like people to keep an eye out for large gatherings in their neighborhood and call the police if they see any suspiciously large, turkey-related activity going on. That’s an idea that’s sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit, right? (Washington Times)

This must be one of the snottiest adverts about family ever made. See what you think. A photo of the governor follows (she’s not the one with the pink gloves):

Let us not forget that Portland has had mayhem going on since June. Every doggone night for months on end:

California

The most blatant nose-thumbing has come from California’s governor Gavin Newsom, who with the co-operation of mayors and county officials has kept the Golden State under lockdown for most of the year, with most counties at the top two highest tier levels during that time.

The status holds true, if not worse, even now:

Meanwhile, Governor Newsom has been releasing prisoners sporadically because they are in danger of catching COVID-19. Forget about law-abiding citizens:

One used to think California voters were being silly in continuing to vote in Democrats.

However, in recent years, a growing number of Americans think that Democrats have won so many elections because of voter fraud:

With regard to the curfew, at least one protest took place. This is from Huntington Beach:

Protests last summer in the state were acceptable to most, but the anti-lockdown and anti-curfew ones attract comment. Fortunately, some can discern the truth:

Newsom has seemingly bought into the mask narrative, even though that policy has not improved his state’s figures:

Exactly. Probably more adjusted statistics. We have them in the UK, too.

However, right now, more Californians are interested in Newsom’s social life during lockdown:

With regard to masks …

No one cares that the Newsom family is self-isolating for a fortnight:

The tweets kept coming and coming:

Newsom isn’t alone, it seems, in rule breaking. Is this the California state legislature? Yes, it is:

By the way, masks are probably not a good conversational topic for Thanksgiving. See this brief exchange:

But I digress.

The three-star French Laundry in Yountville (Napa Valley) is one of the world’s most famous restaurants.

In the 1920s, it was used as a French steam laundry, hence the name.

In the 1970s, the then-mayor of Yountville Don Schmitt and his wife Sally turned the building into a restaurant.

In 1994, the French chef Thomas Keller bought the restaurant and made it into the legend it is today.

Friends invited Gavin Newsom to the French Laundry for a birthday celebration on November 6 during California’s lockdown.

Talk about ‘for me, but not for thee’.

The Daily Caller reported:

Photos show the maskless governor of California dining indoors at one of the highest rated restaurants in the world despite his restrictive coronavirus guidelines for the citizens of California.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom can be seen dining at the Michelin-starred French Laundry on the evening of November 6, according to photos obtained by Fox LA. The restaurant, located in California’s Napa Valley, is considered “the pinnacle of California dining” and has been ranked the best restaurant in the world numerous times, according to various outlets.

Newsom has said the restaurant was outdoors, but FoxLA reported that the room’s glass sliding doors had been closed, making the dinner party indoors. Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The group was so loud that customers complained:

“While we were there we realized there was a very loud party going on in a room 20 feet from us,” the woman who took the photos told FoxLA. “It was a bit annoying since you’re spending hard-earned money to go there. It got louder and louder and so they had some sliding glass doors that they were able to close, so then it was a closed-off room but you could still hear them with how loud they were.”

She continued: “I just happened to look over and realize hey is that Gavin Newsom, who is that? And I did ask one of the waitresses and she confirmed it was, so I was able to take a couple of photos, I was able to document this especially since nobody was wearing a mask. It was a very large group of people shoulder to shoulder, something that he’s always telling us not to do so yeah it was a bit annoying for sure.”

Newsom has urged California residents to wear face masks “in between bites” at restaurants and announced Monday that California is “pulling an emergency brake” and mandating the most restrictive tier of coronavirus restrictions for more than two dozen California counties

The governor also warned that he would announce more COVID restrictions Friday ahead of Thanksgiving.

Newsom apologized Tuesday for attending the dinner party, calling it a “bad mistake” and saying that he became uncomfortable after arriving when he realized that the group was larger than he expected, according to FoxLA.

But the woman who took the photos said Newsom did not appear uncomfortable.

“I was surprised because it didn’t look like he was uncomfortable being there until the very end until people were looking at him and staring at him as he was leaving the room,” she told FoxLA.

Not surprisingly, the dinner made a splash in California’s media:

A few days ago, the California IBank had the nerve to tweet this. I applaud the reply:

That is so true.

Words fail me.

On Thanksgiving, when in doubt, eat more and add more butter.

I hope that those celebrating Thanksgiving can enjoy their dinner the best they can — with hearty gratitude. (Things could always be worse.)

Below is Episode 10 of Spectator TV’s The Week in 60 Minutes, broadcast on Thursday, November 5, 2020:

As per their YouTube blurb, Andrew Neil’s special guests are:

David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge [and] Ece Temelkuran, a Turkish journalist who was fired from her publication for criticising the government.

Andrew Neil began with the US election. Neil clearly loathes Trump. This is why I have not listened to or posted the previous two broadcasts.

He did mention that the state legislatures have a big part to play in deciding whether their election counts are legal or if they can take other action. Political Editor James Forsyth said this was not the predicted Blue Wave Democrats and pollsters predicted. As such, the Republican-dominated Senate will put a check on how much Biden, should he become president, could do.

Economics Correspondent Kate Andrews, who is American, said that to Trump supporters, the incumbent represents ‘normality’. She is not a Trump fan, by the way. She said that Trump will not go down without a fight in the courts, especially after the Democrats have dogged him since 2015. She also pointed out how wrong the polls were.

Neil said that the Democrats never seem to learn their lessons, beginning with Hillary Clinton in 2016. He also said that Biden made a mistake in offering a huge concert featuring Lady Gaga; it looked to ‘Flyover Country’ as if he were pandering to multi-millionaires.

Forsyth pointed out that there is still deep division in the way that Americans think. Neil mentioned the upcoming litigation from Team Trump and mentioned voter fraud, including mail-in ballots. Forsyth said that Establishment Republicans, e.g. Mitch McConnell, will not want him to move into the territory of ‘vexatious lawsuits’.

Neil noted that Democrats are hardly triumphant, particularly because of Biden’s age: 78. Kate Andrews replied that their mandate will be unclear for a one-term president. [They are both assuming Joe’s going to last for four years.] She disagreed with Forsyth about coronavirus being the reason Trump didn’t get more votes; she thinks that Trump came on too strong in the first debate. [The presidential debates are supposed to sway the undecided.]

Andrews think that Biden will ‘work across the aisle’ if he becomes president. However, she says there’s a long road ahead before the president is decided.

Forsyth says that chances are good that Republicans will continue ‘Trumpism without Trump’, building more links with the working class and those on lower incomes. He thinks Democrats have more work to do here than Republicans.

Neil said that the Midwest could take the coastal areas over as the deciding region in future elections — for both parties. Andrews said that people there really appreciated the 2017 tax breaks. The economy, from what she has seen in exit poll issues, was much more important than coronavirus.

Neil said that if Biden becomes president, he will face a Republican-controlled Senate and a majority-conservative Supreme Court. [Neil and Andrews haven’t allowed for him to stack the Supreme Court.]

At that point, both Neil and Forsyth started showing their vulnerabilities as pundits on US politics. So, I’ll move on to the next topic.

The next topic of discussion was the second coronavirus lockdown in England, paralleling the one in Wales and something similar in Scotland. It started the day of the broadcast.

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, talked about the ‘debacle’ of spurious data from SAGE that appeared at the press conference on Saturday, October 31, which 15 million people watched. He pointed out that there are nowhere near 4,000 daily deaths from coronavirus. The magazine has been tracking the data daily.

Nelson also mentioned Sir Patrick Vallance’s exaggerated projections from September, which were not at all true. Nelson said that it looks — even before lockdown — as if the Government’s localised tier system is working. Liverpool’s case numbers decreased by 48%, he said, in the second half of October. He concludes that the Government pushed lockdown based on modelling rather than reality, i.e. ‘scary charts’. [I couldn’t agree more.]

Prof David Spiegelhalter appeared remotely. Neil asked him about these strange statistics and scary scenarios. Spiegelhalter, a statistician, said that he would be speaking personally, not professionally. He said that the ‘4,000 deaths’ were ‘completely unnecessary’ to make a case for a second lockdown. He pointed out that, in more moderate areas of the country, e.g. the south-West, cases are going up. He said that, even as R is decreasing, we are only stabilising the situation temporarily. The situation we are in now is still putting pressure on the NHS to carry out routine treatments. That could have been explained and that would have been reason enough for the public to accept a second lockdown.

Nelson broke in to say that he thought showing alarmist statistics to an early evening audience nationwide on a Saturday was irresponsible. Spiegelhalter agreed, saying that the graph was ‘inappropriate’. He added that it had been produced under earlier, out-of-date assumptions — and was never part of an official document.

Nelson asked for a more balanced view with regard to public statistics. He was also concerned about false-positive test results. Spiegelhalter replied that the true false-positive result is very low. However, we are moving on from the PCR (swab) test we have been using. [A trial with a new test in Liverpool started a few days ago.] He said that the new tests would need to be further evaluated for false-positive rates.

Neil has been talking to the True Blue (Conservative) faithful and they have been growing increasingly ‘hostile’ towards Boris Johnson’s premiership. James Forsyth said there could be a vote on a third lockdown later in the winter. He predicted that there would be an even bigger Conservative backbench rebellion than there was on Wednesday, November 4, when the new lockdown was voted in. Andrews said that the public have not seen enough done during the summer to prevent a further coronavirus crisis. They are also edgy and frustrated about an ever-extended furlough scheme, recently extended to the end of March 2021.

Talk then turned to the ongoing disagreement between France and Turkey, which saw two terrorist incidents in France recently. Ece Temelkuran, an award-winning Turkish journalist and author, was the final interviewee. Neil asked her if Turkey’s President Erdogan was an ‘authoritarian’. She replied, ‘Definitely’. However, she added that the move away from secularism started in the 1980s with members of the military and went on from there. She explained that part of that move was against the Cold War. After the Berlin Wall fell, the military leaders were ‘jobless’ and looked for something with which they could occupy their time. Twenty years ago, after 9/11, Turkey became the ‘model, the exemplar country’ for ‘moderate Islam’, which emerged after 2001, and became stronger advocates for the cause.

She does not think that Erdogan has a plan, that he merely wants power. She says that Erdogan perceives — along with some Turks — that the ‘West has lost its moral superiority’ with the refugee crisis that began in 2015.

She said that Erdogan is increasing his control over various Turkish institutions, ongoing over the past four years. She said that things will get worse before they get better.

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored the programme.

Thursday, November 28, 2019, proved to be a memorable Thanksgiving in the United States and elsewhere — in Hong Kong.

This year’s Thanksgiving came later than usual. Country Living has an interesting article on how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fixed the date for this American holiday. The article also says:

This year, the month of November begins on a Friday, which means the fourth Thursday of the month falls on Nov. 28—it’s the first time Thanksgiving has been this late since 2013.

The turkey pardon took place on Tuesday, November 26, at the White House. It is a relatively new tradition which began in 1989 under Bush I:

Americans could vote for either Bread or Butter to be pardoned:

This is the farmer who raised them:

Both turkeys went to Gobbler’s Rest at Virginia Tech, where pardoned turkeys and their mates go to enjoy a pampered retirement. Agricultural students study them for research purposes.

The event includes invitations to people in the media and elsewhere who are friends of the current president. This year, Judge Jeanine of Fox News was among the supporters who attended.

President Trump gave a speech that day, which included this:

… it was George H.W. Bush who first issued an official pardon.

In keeping with that tradition, today I will issue a pardon to a pair of very handsome birds: Butter and his alternate, Bread. (Laughter.) …

Their names were chosen by the students of Harrells Christian Academy in North Carolina. Great state.

Bread and Butter were raised in Tar Heel State by farmer Wellie Jackson, who’s here with us with his wife Tara and their lovely family. And I want to thank you very much. Great job. Great job. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

He made a few impeachment jokes:

Thankfully, Bread and Butter have been specially raised by the Jacksons to remain calm under any condition, which will be very important because they’ve already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement on Thursday. (Laughter and applause.) It’s true. Hundreds of people have. It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey. (Laughter.)

On a serious note, President Trump had these words for the holiday:

This Thanksgiving, we bow our heads in gratitude for the newfound prosperity and spirit that’s taking place all across America. The country has never been more successful. Our military has been rebuilt. We captured the number-one terrorist in the world and killed the number-one terrorist in the world — al-Baghdadi. And I want to thank our military because there’s nothing like our military. (Applause.)

And I want to thank almighty God for the — shedding his grace on our nation. Our nation is special and we especially send our love to members of the United States Armed Forces serving all around the world. We are forever thankful for those who wear our nation’s uniform and the families who support them. The families are so important. They can never be the same without those great families. Because of their selfless service, millions of our follow Americans are celebrating another wonderful Thanksgiving in safety and in peace.

And it’s just a very special country, a very special place — the Rose Garden at the White House. If you’re looking back here, that’s the Oval Office. Some of you haven’t been here before. But every time we walk onto the grounds of the White House, we realize how special it is.

So now we reach the moment Bread and Butter have been waiting for so patiently — their presidential pardons. Melania and I wish all Americans a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving. We love you all.

On Thursday, in the world of nature, Alaskan moose shared their own Thanksgiving meal:

Meanwhile, in the Lower 48, two beautiful turkeys enjoyed the day in freedom:

The skies had been busy with scheduled flights getting Americans home for Thanksgiving:

President Trump issued greetings:

Meanwhile, half a world away, Hong Kong residents held a Thanksgiving Day rally in appreciation of the signing of the Hong Kong Rights and Democracy Act:

Demonstrators carried photos of a mock-up Rocky picture recently tweeted from the president’s Twitter account:

Back in the United States, kids of all ages were delighted when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade television broadcast began.

New Yorkers enjoy it, too:

The New York Police Department have a huge role to play in ensuring all goes well:

For anyone wishing to distract children during the holiday period, here’s the 2019 parade in full: all two hours of it. I used to love watching this as a kid, so I’m sure yours will, too. The huge balloons of cartoon characters are amazing. Highly recommended:

Moving on to the Trumps, here is the latest photo of First Son, 13-year-old Barron, who now seems to be taller than his father:

Newsweek — now only online, no longer in print — blasted the US president: ‘How is Trump spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, golfing and more’.

The Trumps gathered together at Mar a Lago in Palm Beach. There was only one official item scheduled for Thursday:

Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted:

That evening, President Trump embarked on a secret Thanksgiving mission. He left Palm Beach for Joint Base Andrews:

Trump was on his way to Afghanistan to celebrate Thanksgiving with American troops:

This is a splendid photo of his arrival at Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan:

The Afghani president was also in attendance:

President Ashraf Ghani stood just behind President Trump during his remarks:

The troops were delighted to see their Commander in Chief and share dinner with him:

Then it was time to return home:

The next day’s shopping revenues were superlative — and the best ever for online sales. Americans can thank Trump for that:

Thank Trump, America!

The sensible among you are grateful. That I know.

May our good Lord continue to guide the American president through the daily drama that his enemies dish up. They will not win.

——————————————————————–

UPDATE — The Newsweek reporter who wrote the aforementioned article has been fired. On Saturday, November 30, the Washington Examiner reported:

The Newsweek reporter who wrote an inaccurate story about President Trump’s Thanksgiving Day plans has been fired. The outlet’s original story claimed the president only planned on tweeting and golfing during his holiday break, neglecting to mention his trip to Afghanistan.

Newsweek’s Jessica Kwong, whose Twitter handle identifies her as a political reporter “covering Trump administration and family,” initially published the article Thursday morning, before the president’s trip to Afghanistan was announced publicly …

Hours after the president’s trip was announced, Newsweek edited Kwong’s story and added a note at the bottom of it. The beginning of the story now focuses on the president’s trip and his speech to the troops, while the new headline reads, “How is Trump spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, golfing — and surprising U.S. troops in Afghanistan.”

The note at the end of the story reads, “This story has been substantially updated and edited at 6:17 p.m. EST to reflect the president’s surprise trip to Afghanistan. Additional reporting by James Crowley.”

— —
UPDATE: Kwong put some of the blame for the story on her editor. Read more here.
— —

That article has a statement from Newsweek:

Newsweek investigated the failures that led to the publication of the inaccurate report that President Trump spent Thanksgiving tweeting and golfing rather than visiting troops in Afghanistan,” a Newsweek representative previously told the Washington Examiner. “The story has been corrected, and the journalist responsible has been terminated. We will continue to review our processes and, if required, take further action.”

Newsweek did not answer additional questions about the editor’s status with the outlet or if they would face any consequences over the publication of the story.

In April 2017, I wrote about the plight of the Reverend Andrew Brunson in Turkey. At that time, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was trying to secure his release.

Nearly a year later, in March 2018, Fox News reported that Brunson could be imprisoned for 35 years:

An American pastor has been charged in Turkey with engaging in espionage and having links to terror groups, crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 35 years in prison, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Tuesday.

An indictment accuses Andrew Brunson of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to stir chaos in Turkey and divide the country, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

The news agency said the pastor faces 15 years for crimes committed in the name of Gulen’s group and the PKK and another 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political and military spying purposes.

Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. He was arrested during the mass detentions and firings soon after a failed July 2016 coup attempt. He denies any wrongdoing.

The United States has demanded his release.

In April, President Trump was still on the case:

In May:

In July, Trump tweeted:

In August, Trump used tariffs as leverage against Turkey. On August 15, CBS News reported that Turkey responded in kind:

Turkey announced Wednesday that it is increasing tariffs on imports of certain U.S. products as a local court denied an American pastor’s appeal to be released from house arrest — both moves which could escalate a feud with the United States that has helped trigger a currency crisis. In a decision announced in the Official Gazette, Ankara said it will impose extra tariffs on imports of products including rice, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics.

Tariffs on American cars were doubled to 120 percent while the tariff on alcoholic drinks rose to 140 percent. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter that the tariffs on certain products were increased “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the deliberate economic attacks by the United States.”

A local court in Izmir, meanwhile, rejected the appeal by Pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest pending his trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges … 

The Trump administration imposed its own financial sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on the country earlier this month as President Donald Trump tries to secure the Brunson’s release.

The Turkish lira has dropped to record lows in recent weeks, having fallen some 42 percent so far this year …

On October 11, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the imprisoned pastor:

On October 12, Brunson was on his way home via Germany in a US military plane:

The US ambassador to Germany was on hand to greet the pastor and his wife:

President Trump spoke from a rally that day:

Fox News reported:

Brunson was arrested and detained for 18 months before finally being charged by the Turkish government with a connection to the coup attempt.

U.S. officials also refuted the accusations against Brunson, and amid mounting pressure from American politicians, Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., hailed the verdict Friday, calling it “long overdue news” and adding that “the Turkish government should put Pastor Brunson on the next flight home.”

The Trump administration advocated persistently for Brunson’s release, leading to an intense economic showdown between the two NATO allies. In August, the U.S. slapped sanctions on an array of Turkish officials and on some goods, sending Turkish currency into freefall.

Brunson was not the only American behind bars in Turkey on questionable charges. Several Turkish-American citizens — including NASA scientist Serkan Golge and several workers from the United States Embassy in Ankara — are languishing in prison alleged to have a connection to Gulen’s group.

Trump has put much emphasis on not paying ransom money for the pastor’s release:

Trump’s efforts in arranging hostage and prisoner releases overseas have been historic:

Brunson’s release brought much gratitude, not only from the Brunsons but also the Evangelical community.

Breitbart reported that Brunson issued a statement:

“We are grateful for the President’s commitment and efforts in securing my release,” Brunson said in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working to secure his release. “My entire family thanks the president, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

“This is the day our family has been praying for – I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States,” Brunson said. “It’s been an extremely difficult time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day.”

“I am thankful for the representation of the American Center for Law & Justice – especially ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and ACLJ Senior Counsel CeCe Heil – as well as the many others who worked so hard to obtain my freedom,” Brunson said.

“I look forward to returning home and being reunited with my family,” Brunson said.

The Breitbart report has a comment from the ACLJ which says what many of us assumed; this was not about spying, it was about evangelising for the Christian faith (emphases mine):

The ACLJ said Brunson was targeted because of his Christian faith. Brunson has been leading a Christian congregation and mission in Turkey for two decades.

Pastor Brunson was on trial for the crime of ‘Christianization,’” the ACLJ statement said. “The ACLJ, which has been working in this country and abroad to secure his freedom, said President Trump, as well as members of Congress, continued to push for Pastor Brunson’s release and Turkish officials finally agreed.

“President Trump and his team have been tenacious in seeking the release of Pastor Brunson,” Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ said.“We’re grateful to the president, members of Congress and diplomatic leaders who continued to put pressure on Turkey to secure the freedom of Pastor Brunson.”

Politico reported on the enthusiasm of Evangelical pastors for Trump at the news of Brunson’s release:

When a Turkish court released American Andrew Brunson after two years of confinement, it was a profound moment for Christian evangelicals, who had made the pastor a symbol of religious persecution worldwide.

In Brunson’s case and others, they had prayed for deliverance. And President Donald Trump, they said, delivered …

Again and again, evangelical activists say, the administration has made good on promises made to the faith voters who lifted Trump into office — a group he will sorely need to turn out again for his 2020 re-election bid.

“He wouldn’t be our Sunday School teacher necessarily, but he’s doing a great job of leadership,” said televangelist and Trump adviser James Robison. “I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

The Hand of God is at work. God is using President Trump as one of His many instruments.

Sarah Sanders’s father, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, acknowledged the Trump administration’s efforts and wondered how the media would cover this joyous event:

At least one journalist understood:

On Saturday, August 13, the excitement was building.

Trump graciously acknowledged Turkish president Erdogan:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) spoke to the press:

As scheduled, that afternoon, the Brunsons met with President Trump in the Oval Office:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also present …

… as were other members of the administration who worked long and hard to secure Brunson’s release:

Pastor Brunson then prayed over the president, asking the Holy Spirit to descend upon him, granting him wisdom and discernment:

CBN had more on the White House meeting:

Brunson prayed for the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office saying, “I ask that you give him strength. I ask you to protect him.. make him a great blessing to this country and fill him with your wisdom and strength.”

“We pray for you often as a family, my wife and I pray for you,” the pastor told the president …

“We are so grateful to so many people in Congress who stood with us, prayed with us and fought with us,” Brunson said.

President Trump said the US did not give up anything in return for the evangelical minister’s release and pushed back on reports he agreed to lift sanctions.

“Right now the whole world is a fan of yours, the whole world is a fan,” Trump said. “It’s a great honor to have you back home.”

You can see the full event below:

Trump was as energised about this as the Brunsons were:

My prayer is for Pastor Brunson not to return to Turkey, not that he is thinking of doing so now, but he might do so in future.

I hope that he and his family enjoy a happy reunion period at home in North Carolina. May he find a divine calling there.

In closing, may the Trump administration be successful in releasing the other innocent Americans being held in Turkey.

Best wishes to my American readers for a very happy Thanksgiving! May you have an abundance of food and fun.

On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, President Donald Trump pardoned his first Thanksgiving turkeys, Drumstick, which weighs 47 pounds, and Wishbone, a 36-pounder:

Drumstick and understudy Wishbone spent Monday night at the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington, as per turkey pardon tradition, before visiting the White House:

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders enjoyed the experience with one of her children:

The First Family also enjoyed the event. The Daily Mail has great photos of Trump children and grandchildren.

The video of the pardon is worth watching for history, jokes and, on a serious note, thanks to the American people. First Lady Melania Trump and First Son Barron, 11, joined the US president:

Although Trump read off a teleprompter, his delivery was spot on. Excerpts from his remarks follow (emphases mine):

… I’m especially pleased that we’re joined for this great occasion by Carl Wittenburg, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, along with his wife, Sharlene, and sons, Nate and Wyatt.

It was 70 years ago that the National Turkey Federation first presented the National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Harry Truman — who, I might add, did not grant the pardon. He refused. He was a tough cookie. (Laughter.) Today, I’m going to be a much nicer President.

Over the past 10 months, Melania and I have had the pleasure of welcoming many, many special visitors to the great White House. We’ve hosted dozens of incredible world leaders, members of Congress, and, along the way, a few very strange birds. But we have yet to receive any visitors quite like our magnificent guest of honor today — Drumstick. Hi, Drumstick. Oh, Drumstick, I think, is going to be very happy …

Drumstick was raised on Carl and Sharlene’s turkey farm in Douglas County, Minnesota, with the help of five young women from the Douglas County 4-H chapter who are here with us today. And I want to say, great work. Where are they? Please stand. Great job you’ve done. (Applause.) 4-H. That’s great. Thank you.

Upon being pardoned, Drumstick and his friend, Wishbone, will live out their days at “Gobbler’s Rest” — beautiful place. It’s custom-built; it’s an enclosure on the campus of Virginia Tech. Tremendous school. There, they’ll join Tater and Tot, the two turkeys pardoned last year by President Obama.

As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor. However, I have been informed by the White House Counsel’s Office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot, under any circumstances, be revoked. So we’re not going to revoke them. So, Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.

I’d also like to thank the National Turkey Federation for bringing along two other turkeys from Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania — the great state of Pennsylvania. We’re donating these turkeys to Martha’s Table, a truly fantastic charity right here in Washington D.C., which provides warm meals to people in need. They do a fantastic job.

Before we get to the pardon, I would like to take a moment to extend our very heartfelt special message: Thanks. Thanks, folks — to the finest and bravest people in the entire world, our great men and women in uniform: the military, law enforcement, first responders. These are incredible people. So, thank you.

Many of you are always — and you know your loved ones — and you’re far away, and you spend so much time away. This Thanksgiving, I want each of you to know that we’re forever grateful for the incredible job and for the incredible sacrifices that you and your families make in defense of our nation, our freedom, and our truly great American flag.

I’d also like to express my thanks to the wonderful citizens of our country — the people who care for our communities, raise America’s children, uphold our laws and our values, and make this amazing land into our national home …

And now I think Drumstick and Wishbone would be very thankful if we would just get around to the pardon. They say,

“Enough talk, please pardon us.”

So I want to thank everybody for being here today and wish everybody a very, very happy Thanksgiving — very special people[,] a very special country.

Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

Given the political climate in the United States, the pardons gave rise to humour:

Earlier in the day, Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin for over an hour, discussing a variety of topics.

Before departing the White House to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, he spoke with the press, who, for the most part, badgered him with their usual stupid questions. However, someone did ask about his conversation with Putin:

We had a great call with President Putin. We’re talking about peace in Syria — very important. We’re talking about North Korea. We had a call that lasted almost an hour and a half. We’ve just put out a release on the call. But we’re talking very strongly about bringing peace for Syria. We’re talking about very strongly about North Korea and Ukraine.

Another reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Great things are happening in the United States — and the world.

Thanksgiving bloglibumneduTuesday before Thanksgiving is a good time to start preparing for Turkey Day.

You can make pie crust and buy any last-minute essentials. Making cranberry sauce is also a good Tuesday activity.

Make your Thanksgiving pie on Wednesday, so that you have less to do on Thursday.

Prep vegetables on Wednesday and put them in a pot of water or stock (cover with a lid) on the stove ready for cooking on Thursday. Alternatively, cook them on Wednesday to reheat on Thursday.

Make your turkey stock for Thanksgiving gravy ahead of time on Wednesday. Remove the wings from your turkey, joint them (for bone broth), sauté them with a tablespoon of salted butter until browned, then add water. Bringing the pot up to the boil and simmering sufficiently takes about three hours. Turn off the heat and leave to cool gradually to room temperature.

You can also make your stuffing then so that it is ready for the bird straightaway on Thanksgiving.

By the way, the secret to a good stuffing is plenty of butter. Use a ratio of 1/3 stock to 2/3 butter. Sauté chopped onion, mushrooms and celery with 125g — one stick — of butter in the stuffing pot before adding the croutons. Add another 125g of butter when you add your stock. Melt the butter in the stock then add the croutons, put a lid on the pan and turn off the heat. You will get a lot of compliments!

Finally, be sure to season your turkey well before putting it in the oven. Prepare a seasoned rub of your choice, adding plenty of salt. I also put softened salted butter with sage or bay leaves under the skin. It makes a huge difference to the finished product.

Salt and butter are your Thanksgiving dinner friends.

I mention this because the worst Thanksgiving dinner I ever ate was at a nurse’s house in the late 1970s. I can remember it to this day. She did not season the bird at all — or any of the side dishes. Furthermore, everything was low-fat. I ate out of politeness, but could easily have passed that dinner by.

Also, if it is easier for you to carve and dish up in the kitchen, do so. You’ll save time on the washing up, as you won’t have serving dishes to clean.

In closing, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a huge chore. Start now, so that you can relax a bit more with your guests on the day.

On Thursday, March 30, 2017, The Daily Caller reported that, during his brief trip to Turkey, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, visited the wife of a Protestant pastor who is currently in a Turkish prison.

Tillerson had no previous plan to meet with Norine Brunson. His scheduled event was a meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In November 2016, Turkish authorities imprisoned the Revd Andrew Brunson on suspicion of terrorism.

The Daily Caller explains:

The Brunsons, who have worked in Turkey for 23 years as missionaries, were detained by Turkish authorities in October and held for deportation. Norine was released shortly after, but Andrew was kept in jail and accused of being part of a terrorist organization.

Which terrorist organization is unclear. Turkish authorities have not disclosed that information or anything else about its supposed case.

Brunson has been in a prison in Izmir since November and has had limited contact with his lawyers and Norine. The case against Brunson appears to be part of a larger crackdown against anyone who the Erdogan regime arbitrarily deems an enemy …

Erdogan’s enemy list includes Christians.

How Mrs Brunson came to meet Rex Tillerson in Ankara is somewhat supernatural. Mr Brunson (emphases mine):

had told her that he felt that God had told him she would meet America’s top diplomat.

And it turned out that he was right.

On Monday, Andrew told me he felt the Lord had said I would meet with Sec of State Tillerson. On Tuesday, I was told by the embassy and another senator that the meeting would NOT happen. I decided to come to Ankara anyway and arrived last night,” Norine Brunson wrote on Facebook Thursday, just after she met for 20 minutes with Tillerson.

That is amazing.

Details of how the meeting came to pass are unknown. The State Department is not commenting on the matter or on the Brunsons.

However, the fact that Tillerson met with Mrs Brunson is significant:

Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), says that Tillerson’s meeting with Norine Brunson is a positive development in the case to help free Andrew.

“This is a powerful sign that the Trump Administration is taking the plight of this wrongfully imprisoned U.S. citizen very seriously,” said Sekulow, who is working to help free the pastor.

Let us keep the Brunsons in our prayers and thank the Lord that Rex Tillerson met with Mrs Brunson. May God continue to bless all three of them.

I wrote more than once that the hand of God was all over last year’s election.

This year, I believe that the hand of God is all over the Trump administration.

This incredible news story goes some way in proving that.

The Telegraph reported today that the agreement the EU made with Turkey to do away with visas for Turks entering the Schengen zone could increase terrorism and organised crime.

The agreement will come into effect only if Ankara passes important anti-corruption and anti-terrorism reforms. It is thought this could be as early as June 2016.

The UK is one of the EU countries that is not in the Schengen zone. However, that does not necessarily mean we would be unaffected.

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, warned of the folly of the visa deal, which the Telegraph reports:

was part of a hastily-assembled deal brokered by Brussels to halt the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece.

Sir Richard:

warned that the decision to give Turkey visa-free travel is “perverse” and compared it to “storing gasoline next to the fire”.

Sir Richard also said that the EU will face a “populist uprising” if it fails to control migration.

Oddly, even a European Commission report acknowledged:

the “increased mobility into the Schengen area of criminals and terrorists who are citizens of Turkey, or who are foreigners based in Turkey.”

And:

“Visa liberalisation could also have an impact on undetected entry into the EU of persons from Kosovo who return from war zones where they had joined terrorist networks,” the report says.

The Turkish mafia, which traffics vast volumes of drugs, sex slaves, illegal firearms and refugees into Europe may undergo “direct territorial expansion towards the EU” as a result of the deal, the report admits. “Suspect individuals being allowed to travel to the Schengen territory without the need to go through a visa request procedure would have a greater ability to enter the EU without being noticed.”

Kosovo is a hot spot because of all the weapons left over from the Balkans war. These are being smuggled all over Europe. Combine that with the increased risk of terrorism and it beggars belief that this visa deal should ever have come together.

The article states that an EU spokesperson said that ‘visa liberalisation’ could be withdrawn if it were abused.

However, thinking that the Turkish government would accept that is folly in and of itself.

The EU is signing its own death warrant. Brexit can’t come soon enough. Let’s hope the British public vote Leave.

St NicholasThe feast day of St Nicholas is on December 6.

This famous saint, revered around the world by Catholics and many Protestants, led a fascinating life of faith which also included persecution.

(Photo credit: St Nicholas Center)

Life events

Nicholas was born on March 15, 270 in Asia Minor, then known as Greek Anatolia. Today we call it Turkey.

He grew up in a wealthy Christian family and inherited a lot of money at a young age when his parents died of an epidemic which swept through the region.

Epiphanius and Johanna — sometimes referred to as Theophanes and Nonna — raised Nicholas in faith and holiness. Nicholas also willingly observed the canonical fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays. When his parents died, Nicholas went to live with his eponymous uncle who was the Bishop of Patara. There, Nicholas was tonsured and pursued theological studies. His uncle appointed him a reader and, when the time came, ordained him as a presbyter — a priest.

In 312, Nicholas went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to better understand our Lord’s life. He ended up staying three years, living with the monks of the monastery dedicated to the Great Martyr George — St George. They lived at Beit Jala, a mountain overlooking Bethlehem. Whilst visiting the great shrines commemorating events and places in the life of Christ, Nicholas prayed regularly. Then, one day, he felt the necessity to return to his homeland, specifically Myra.

He arrived in Myra in 317 as the people of city were in the process of deciding whom to elect as a bishop. They decided to elect Nicholas.

This was a time of intense persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. The emperor Diocletian ordered the young Bishop of Myra to be exiled and imprisoned. Diocletian did not bother filling prisons with criminals, only Christians. Nicholas met a great many other bishops — as well as deacons and priests — during his time in captivity. When Constantine became emperor, he freed the Christian prisoners and Nicholas was able to return to Myra.

The false teachings of the heretic Arius were making the rounds of the Christian world at that time. St Methodius wrote:

thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison.

In 325, the Council of Nicaea formally declared Arianism a heresy and, to guard against present and future generations adopting it, wrote the Nicene Creed.

Although Methodius did not say whether Nicholas attended the Council, another account maintains that he was present. That account claims Nicholas was so angry that he slapped Arius in the face. The other clergy present found this un-Christian behaviour and took away not only his episcopal insignia but also sent him to prison. Tradition says that our Lord and Mary appeared. Nicholas was released and reinstated as Bishop of Myra.

Orthodox Christians believe that Nicholas was one of the signers of the Nicene Creed.

In Myra, Nicholas guarded his people against paganism. He destroyed several temples, including the main one of Artemis. It is said that when he destroyed it, the evil spirits fled, howling.

Nicholas felt responsible not only for his flock’s spiritual welfare but also for their material welfare. Many were needy. Others were innocent people falsely charged with crime. Nicholas was their tireless defender and helper.

Nicholas died in Myra on December 6, 343. He was buried there. By the time the emperor Justinian came to power, a basilica had been built in Constantinople to honour the new St Nicholas. The Church did not have formal canonisation procedures until the 10th century.

During the next several centuries, devotion to St Nicholas spread across all lands and among all ages. One Greek living in the 10th century wrote:

the West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the furthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. Images of him are set up, panegyrics preached and festivals celebrated. All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence his memory and call upon his protection. And his favors, which know no limit of time and continue from age to age, are poured out over all the earth; the Scythians know them, as do the Indians and the barbarians, the Africans as well as the Italians.

The relics

Nicholas’s relics have continued to exude manna — a watery substance that smells like roses — from his death in Myra to the present day. This occurs only once a year, on December 6.

During the Saracen invasion in the 11th century, the shrine dedicated to him in Myra eventually fell to the Muslims.

The great Italian cities of the time decided to rescue the saint’s relics. Venice and Bari ended up being the two most powerful contenders. Bari was successful.

A group of men from the city set sail for Myra and were able to load the saint’s relics onto their ship. They returned home on May 9, 1087. That part of the country — Apulia — had maintained many Greek colonies, a factor that might have been an added incentive for the men. A new church (now a basilica) was built in St Nicholas’s honour and the then-Pope — now Blessed — Urban II was present for the installation of the relics. They remain there today. There is also a Greek Orthodox church close by.

Priests continue to extract one flask of Nicholas’s manna a year and will do so on Sunday, December 6, 2015. The manna is poured into small vials which can be purchased from the basilica.

Sailors from Bari will also process from the basilica on Sunday carrying St Nicholas’s statue. They have been doing this for centuries in the hope that he will keep them safe on the sea (see next section).

Stories and legends

The faithful quickly established a cult — devotion — of St Nicholas which spread across Christendom.

Many legends, no doubt some of which are true stories, spread about his goodness and generosity.

The following were to have happened during his lifetime.

The three imperial officers

In St Methodius’s time only one story circulated about Nicholas. That concerned the ill fate of three imperial officers travelling on duty to Phyrgia. When they returned from their assignment to Constantinople, the prefect Ablavius imprisoned them on false charges. It is said that Ablavius was a jealous man. Ablavius went further and appealed to Constantine to issue a death warrant for the three men. Constantine duly did.

When the imprisoned officers found out about their ultimate fate, they remembered the holy example of the Bishop of Myra. They prayed to God that Nicholas might somehow intercede on their behalf.

That night, Nicholas appeared in a dream to Constantine and to Ablavius. The next day, Constantine and Ablavius told each other of their dreams. They sent for the three officers who told them of their prayers for Nicholas’s intervention. Afraid and awestruck, Constantine freed the men and wrote to the Bishop of Myra asking him to pray for the peace of the world. That is how much spiritual power Constantine thought Nicholas had.

The sailors

A group of mariners encountered a storm off the coast of Lycia. Frightened, yet faithful, they asked for help from the Bishop of Myra. He appeared before them and guided their vessel back to port. Sailors travelling in the Aegean and Ionian seas often remembered St Nicholas. They:

wore their “star of St. Nicholas” and wished one another a good voyage in the phrase “May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.”

The poor man with three daughters

A poor man had three daughters whom he hoped would marry. However, he could not afford to pay the required dowries to their bridegrooms — a custom that continues in various cultures today.

He was beside himself with worry.

One night, unbeknownst to the poor father, Nicholas crept onto the man’s chimney and dropped a bag of gold into a stocking that was hanging by the fire to dry. This meant that the man’s eldest daughter was now able to marry.

Some time later, a second bag of gold arrived in a stocking hanging by the fire. It was for the second daughter.

Intrigued, the man stayed up late at night by the fire to discover who was leaving him dowry money.

Finally, one night, he saw that the mysterious benefactor — with the third bag of gold — was Nicholas, who begged him not to tell anyone.

It is difficult to maintain silence in such circumstances, and it was not long before several people knew. After that, word spread quickly that anonymous gifts came from Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra.

The three bags of gold translated into three balls of gold — hence the saint’s protection of pawnbrokers — and also into satsumas or oranges for children’s stockings, suggesting gold. These fruits, until recently, were expensive; children considered them highly valued treats.

The theological students; children and the butcher

Three theological students were on their way to study in Athens.

They stopped at a local inn, where the evil innkeeper murdered them. He hid their remains in a pickling vat.

Some time later, Nicholas was travelling along the same route. He stayed at the same inn. That night, he dreamt about the murders. He awoke and immediately summoned the innkeeper. Nicholas prayed fervently. When he had finished, the students had been resurrected in full health.

In France, the story involves three children who got lost and fell prey to an evil butcher. St Nicholas appeared and appealed to God to resurrect them and return them to their families. God heard and fulfilled the prayer. This is one legend linking the saint to children.

The Arab pirates and the boy from Myra

This is another which also relates to children.

I have separated this story from the others. It could be relevant to the next section.

Some years after Nicholas’s death, the people from Myra were celebrating his feast day. However, their joy was short-lived as a gang of Arab pirates arrived from Crete. They looted the Church of Saint Nicholas and, before they sailed home, kidnapped a young boy, Basilios, an only child.

The emir wanted Basilios to be his cup-bearing slave.

For the next year, the boy’s parents were understandably gripped by anxiety. Meanwhile, Basilios brought the emir his wine in a golden cup every day.

When the next St Nicholas Day arrived, Basilios’s mother was too grief-stricken to join in the celebrations. She stayed home and prayed.

The story goes that, as Basilios was about his duties for the emir, he was suddenly whisked up, up and away. St Nicholas appeared to the boy, calmed him down, blessed him and set him back down at his home in Myra.

Basilios was said to have appeared before his parents with the emir’s golden cup in his hands.

This is the first legend that circulated about Nicholas’s protection of children.

This legend illustrates why we have the association of St Nicholas-Father Christmas travelling across the sky.

Black Pete — Zwarte Piet

I put Basilios’s story above because I theorise it relates to the Dutch Zwarte Piet, St Nicholas’s mythical helper.

St Nicholas Day was a feast for everyone. It is unclear how or where the custom arose, but putting shoes out for a gift from the saint appears in Utrecht’s St Nicholas Church records in 1427. Even adults participated.Not a Zwarte Piet here

Children were given more particular gifts. Bad children were given lumps of coal or switches for whippings. Good children were given fruit, biscuits or a toy.

Jan Steen’s The Feast of St Nicholas (1665-1668), pictured — courtesy of Netherlands by Numbers — shows a typical scene. The boy who is crying has a switch in his shoe.

Although countries of the Reformation banned celebrating saints’ feasts, the Netherlands continued to observe St Nicholas Day.

For most of the centuries when the Dutch celebrated this feast, St Nicholas always operated alone.

History

Then, in the 18th century, the saint somehow acquired a helper, Zwarte Piet — Black Pete.

A century later, one Dutchman later would codify Black Pete into every one’s mind.

Before going into his story, please consider the aforementioned legend of Basilios, whom St Nicholas rescued, and The Netherlands’ place in history from the 17th century.

History Extra reminds us that, at the time, the Lowlands — of which The Netherlands was part — were ruled by Spain under the Hapsburgs. The Dutch would have seen Spanish soldiers.

In the run-up to St Nicholas Day, children were often told that if they were very, very bad, a man named Black Pete might bundle them in a bag and take them to Spain.

These days, being bundled off to Spain sounds pretty good. However, that wasn’t always the case.

In fact, I had an ex-colleague from The Netherlands whose parents used to threaten him with kidnap to Spain in the 1960s. It scared him into being good! Spain was, even then, far away and foreign.

So, how did Black Pete come into the picture? History Extra gives us two possible reasons.

One concerns history. All of the listed possibilities reminded me of the aforementioned Basilios:

Black Pete’s origins are … problematic. There are suggestions that he started life as a Moorish servant from Spain, a Turkish orphan rescued by St Nick, or an Ethiopian slave freed by him.

The other concerns the spiritual element as well as colour symbolism of good and evil from paganism to Christianity:

Among his miracles and good deeds St Nicholas also had time to combat the devil and medieval pictures show him with Satan in chains. The devil is often painted black, but it’s possible Pete is pre-Christian. One of his jobs is to look after Sleipnir, Santa’s horse. He’s an elegant but normal nag and has the same name as Norse god Odin’s eight-legged steed. Odin is often portrayed taking dead souls back to the underworld. Guess what colour they are? Black.

In any event, in the popular mind, the Turkish bishop somehow ended up in Spain. He and his servant Pete would make the trip to arrive in the Netherlands every December 5-6 and punish or reward children accordingly. St Nicholas — Sinterklaas (St Klaas — St ‘Claus)) to the Dutch, in the same way we say St Nick — gave the instruction for the gift. Pete fulfilled his bidding.

The story that changed everything

In 1850, Dutch schoolteacher Jan Schenkman published a wildly imaginative and equally inaccurate story of St Nicholas and Black Pete.

Sinterklaas and his Servant has the two sailing to the Netherlands from Spain by steam ship. It was meant as just a bit of fun, no doubt. But there might also have been some excitement for young minds of the day. Steam ships were a new and technologically advanced form of transport at the time. Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe was also a popular novel. It tells the story of a Knight Templar who returns from Palestine with two black Saracen servants. Schenkman must have had his finger on the pulse, because his story took off.

Slaves on horseback?Black Pete was dressed in Saracen attire whilst Nicholas wore his episcopal robes. The postcard ‘St Nicholas and his Servant’ (same root as ‘knight’) — courtesy of The Netherlands by numbers — shows a scene from a St Nicholas Day celebration of the era.

Despite the mild mischief he engaged in, Pete was always a force for good. However, this does not come without complications today.

Present day controversy rages

Over the past few years, people of colour in the Netherlands have been both sad and angry about Black Pete. Some are sad because they have been called Pete — this includes women, too — whilst others are angry that an annual national celebration includes a reminder of slavery. Others are offended to see some Petes acting like buffoons.

However, Pete continues to be an even better guy these days; he no longer hands out punishment gifts or kidnaps children.

In fact, whilst Nicholas is on his horse, Pete’s the chap who’s busy handing out sweets to children eagerly lining the streets of Dutch towns and cities.

Yet, he’s still a troublesome character.

History Extra says:

Earlier I deliberately wrote of Zwart Pete’s “darker” side. It is this unthinking western link between evil, death, colour and coarse caricature that so worries some. Others point out that it is Pete who is really loved by the kids, not the stuffy Bishop, and they always add that it’s a bit of harmless fun. Here, it’s a debate that is as seasonal as Christmas itself.

VQR Online has an excellent article by a black American who lives in The Netherlands. In some St Nicholas parades, Black Pete also holds the bridle of St Nicholas’s horse, suggesting servitude. The author, Emily Raboteau, writes:

In this last posture, he reminded me a little of a lawn jockey, that American holdover from the days of Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Clearly, this was why Zwarte Piet haunted and sickened me in Amsterdam.

At the Amsterdam procession she attended, Raboteau made these observations:

“Piet, Piet!” the children cried. It seemed they loved him more than Sinterklaas, who carried a miter and never smiled …

While I munched on those little Euro-​coin-​sized cookies made soggy by the rain, one particular child captured my attention. She was older than the others, maybe ten or eleven. Her makeup was unevenly applied, as if she’d smudged her face with dirt. In her ear was a cochlear implant, and when she shouted Piet’s name you could hear the deafness in her voice, but also the joy. Her mother stood directly behind her, happy to see her daughter made so happy. I couldn’t be angry with that girl, who was guileless, nor with her mother, who had grown up with the tradition. One Piet stopped clowning long enough to give the girl cookies. I must admit it made me feel good to see that girl smiling. I felt my baby quickening inside me and looked forward to future Christmases: eggnog, “Silent Night,” midnight mass, the smell of the tree. I remembered my felt stocking stuffed with walnuts, tangerines, and candy canes, and choosing the biggest present to open on Christmas Eve. I knew I would gladly lie about Santa Claus to make my kid’s childhood more magical, just as my parents had done for me. Was there an ingredient of love in all this Zwarte Piet stuff?

She illustrated her article with a number of representations of Black Pete.

I studied the photo of the Jumbo brand chocolate boxes. One can buy a box of St Nicholas chocolates or two different kinds of Black Pete.

That alone tells one something: Black Pete is more popular. His representations also look super-friendly whereas St Nicholas’s is just creepy.

Some supermarkets have withdrawn these chocolates from sale after protests from Dutch blacks and those born in former colonies, such as Surinam. In fact, when short motion pictures became affordable, a few St Nicholas Day processions were recorded on film. The Netherlands by numbers says that one was made in Amsterdam in 1934 or 1935:

Sinterklaas was accompanied by a lot of white heralds in outfits very similar to today’s Zwarte Piet. And, according to Sinterklaas expert Marie-Jose Wouters, the procession also included six Surinamese sailors whose boat was in the harbour at the time. They are, alas, not on the film. But it could just be that the very first Zwarte Piets in the procession were Surinamese.

However, in 2012, Amsterdam city council took a local survey:

39% of people of Surinamese origin don’t like the idea of Zwarte Piet being at their children’s school, nor do 28% of Ghanians, 24% of Antilleans and 17% of English speakers. However the survey found no people of Moroccan origin thought Zwarte Piet was an issue. A survey in October 2013 for television programme EditieNL found 96% of the Dutch think the Zwarte Piet character should stay.

Oddly, although technically Caucasian, St Nicholas was from Asia Minor. It is unclear whether he would have owned a slave and we do not know what his circumstances were with regard to having servants. Schenkman’s story — rather than actual history — might be what is stoking people’s objections today.

It is interesting to discover that all the objection started in 1968 — that fateful year which gave rise to a twisted era in much of Europe and North America that continues today. A woman named M C Grünbauer said:

it no longer appropriate to continue to celebrate our dear old Saint Nicholas feast in its actual form.

Conclusion

Perhaps one solution would be to go back to the real story of St Nicholas in as far as people know it. Black Pete’s not part of that history, certainly not as represented.

I’ve run on quite a bit here. I’ll be back next year with more information on St Nicholas and Black Pete references, including how the saint became part of Christmas.

For now, here is another story about St Nicholas by Margaret Meyerkort, Wynstones School, Whaddon, Gloucester, England. The last two sentences sum up this feast perfectly:

The earth is wide and great. There, where St. Nicholas cannot go himself, he asks a good and pious person to go to the children and take them apples and nuts and tell the children of the coming of the Christ Child.

And that’s all that matters.

Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyAre you roasting a turkey or goose for the first time? Are you nervous?

You needn’t be.

Below are a few of my tips on both big birds along with a few commonsense suggestions from Food Network’s Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson on turkey.

(Photo credit: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod.)

What size to buy?

A ten-pound goose (4.5 kg) will serve eight to ten people. Therefore, operate on a pound-per-person basis. That does not mean, incidentally, that each person will be receiving a pound of goose! You have the weight of the carcass to consider, and there really isn’t much meat on a goose. However, what the goose lacks in meat it more than makes up for in flavour.

A ten-pound turkey (4.5 kg) will serve 18 to 20 people. So, don’t go overboard in buying a 22-pound (10 kg) turkey when you have what you need in a bird half that size. Turkeys have a lot of meat, which no doubt accounts for their popularity. They are value for money.

Save everything!

Save and use whatever you receive with the bird of your choice.

When you carve, have a large pot ready for your discarded bones. They make excellent stock which you can use in your gravy or to make soup. You can also steam or boil any type of vegetable with it. Start saving litre / quart bottles — glass or plastic — with the lids so that you can store the stock in the refrigerator. Most stock, refrigerated, will last at least a fortnight, possibly three weeks as long as you do not add vermouth or herbs to it. N.B.: Often, a small bit of fat will float to the top once the stock has been refrigerated. This does not normally spoil the stock and will pour out easily. A milligram of fat will not do any dish harm; in fact, it is a flavour enhancer.

If you are serving a boiled ham which you have prepared yourself (British bacon collar is outstanding), save the cooking liquid and put your spare turkey or goose bones in it for an exceptional final result. Words cannot express how flavoursome this is!

Save the liver to sauté later for a starter (appetiser) for one or two people (see Step 1 under Method in this post on duck). Turkey liver is every bit as good as duck or goose liver.

Use the giblets, heart and neck for dressing or in stock. This year, instead of boiling them with the bones for stock and adding to the dressing for the next day, I thinly sliced the giblets and heart along with easily-cut neck pieces and sautéed them quickly to add to the dressing. They were much more tender and flavoursome than when I used to boil them to death. What was left on the neck, I added to the meat bones for stock after carving the bird.

Save the skin and the fat for later use. Crispy, fat skin can be served on the side for those who like it; good free-range turkey skin from the neck is a revelation. Even thin skin can be reserved to help to protect the meat when reheating the next day. Pour turkey fat into a bowl to save for sautéeing onions or other vegetables (e.g. bell peppers, leeks) on another occasion. Left refrigerated and uncovered, it will keep for a few weeks at least. The same is true for goose fat, of which there will be a lot: nothing makes better roast potatoes, oven fries or Yorkshire pudding. You need only a tablespoon or two in the roasting pan or divided evenly among six deep Yorkshire pudding tins. Refrigerated goose fat — uncovered — should keep for a few months.

Roasting

Last year’s holiday posts featured preparation and roasting procedures for turkey and duck. The duck recipe can be used for goose.

With regard to stuffing — always cook it first before putting it in the bird. It will come out moist and, for those who like it, crunchy on top near the open part of the carcass.

Carving

Both Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson (Food Network) say that you can roast the turkey to finish an hour or so before sitting down to dinner. You can let it rest on a carving tray for that time before carving. It will still be warm.

The same holds true for goose, although I would halve the time to 30 minutes.

Why would you want to do this? In order to have some time for yourself in preparing for guests. Have a restorative bath. Alternatively, take your time laying the table, adding a few last-minute elegant holiday touches. Or just chill out alone with a few Christmas carols for a while. By this time, you will need a few moments to yourself so that you can be bright-eyed and sparkling for your guests.

Now for the nitty-gritty regarding carving. Before you start, have nearby a large empty pot for bones, a carving platter and another platter or large plate. You will also need a large carving knife and possibly a smaller one for more intricate areas of the bird.

(N.B.: Please be careful when carving. Working with knives is not the time to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.)

Ina Garten’s programmes reveal that Americans carve turkeys differently to the British. Choose whatever is easiest for you.

Combining the British and American ways is easier for me, which — for either turkey or goose — is to:

1/ Remove the wings by getting as close to the base of the breast as you can (British). You will find a joint which meets the base of the breast near the neck. Cut one wing away from the carcass, remove any meat (this applies more to turkey than to goose), place the meat on one side of the carving tray, then place the wing bones in the stock pot. Perform the same operation on the other side.

2/ Remove the legs / drumsticks in the same manner (British, see Step 1). Even goose legs have meat on them, despite what professional chefs (but not Ina or Nigella) tell you on cooking shows.

3/ Cut the breasts off the bird in one piece, carefully carving them as close to the bone as you can (American — thanks, Ina!). This is where the spare platter or large plate comes in handy. Place the breasts on the platter or plate and leave them there for the moment.

4/ Examine the nearly-bare carcass. Tip it to the underside to reveal what are known as the ‘oysters’ or ‘eyes’. These are two succulent chunks of meat on every bird — including chicken and guinea fowl — which are facial cheek sized. A surprising number of people will look for these on the plate, so reserve these for the foodies or the special person at your table!

5/ Place the carcass — broken in half, if necessary — into the stock pot along with the wings and leg bones. Fill the pot with water — or add to water in which you have boiled a collar of bacon (unparallelled!) — add a generous splash of port and place on the stove on medium heat. Stock is ready to come off the heat when the mix is close to boiling, normally after 45 minutes to an hour. At that point — no doubt when you are ready for your second course or dessert — turn the heat off and leave the pan on the stove for at least a few, if not several, hours — depending on the temperature in your kitchen — in order for the flavours to marry. Add a generous amount of salt and some pepper when you turn the heat off. These flavours will blend in with the very hot water — there is no need to stir.

6/ Return the breasts to the carving tray and carefully carve into thin, attractive slices lengthwise (British). Arrange these, along with the dark meat, onto plates in an appetising way. Regardless of how tired you are, remember that, for your family and friends, ‘It’s Christmas!!’

7/ If you experience a delay, wrap the meat up in aluminium foil and keep it in a warm oven for 10 or 15 minutes. You can finish the gravy during this time.

8/ Serve your stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and gravy in an equally pleasing manner alongside the meat.

9/ Another British tradition is to serve chipolatas (what Americans know as ‘porkies’ or slim pork sausages) and/or ham along with their Christmas turkey or goose. That also extends the length that the main star of the show — turkey or goose — will go around the table. Everyone ends up feeling as if they’ve had a bit of everything.

Your dishing everything up in the kitchen will save on washing up later with a houseful of guests. Just make sure to take orders beforehand for light and dark meat preferences.

Happy Christmas!

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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