12/31/03’s illustrious band:
Brought to you by Grandpa Max.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (South Dakota), a New Year’s Eve party was held in an isolated cabin. The revels were great but the weather was not, and come New Year’s Day, those who had stayed overnight, including my Grandpa Max, found themselves snowed in.
The stranded celebrants looked groggily around for a little breakfast, but all they found were leftovers from the night before. One of the men, possibly my grandfather, got the bright idea of mixing the dregs together.
“You cannot possibly be serious,” someone undoubtedly protested.
“That sounds disgusting,” someone else surely said.
“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it,” said maybe my Grandpa Max.
And so a blender was filled with crème de cacao, vodka, coffee and ice cream. The bartender sipped the concoction, appreciating its hair-of-the-dog effect, and offered it around. One by one his companions sampled it and grudgingly proclaimed it not bad.
“What do you call this stuff?” one asked.
“Uh . . . moose milk,” the creator replied.
And thus, a tradition was born.
Grandpa passed to his children, including my Dad, the custom of holding a moose milk party on New Year’s Day. The host served moose milk (the exact formula remains a family secret) and guests brought leftover munchies from New Year’s Eve. Dad and Mom carried on this tradition throughout my childhood, delighting guests with a serendipitous variety of snacks and their children with “kids’ moose milk,” or chocolate shakes. The annual moose milk party became very popular -- and, after a while, too big and expensive to host. Eventually, and with some regret, Dad hung up his apron.
As soon as he did, however, a wealthier acquaintance announced a new moose milk event. He hired professional bartenders and caterers instead of sticking with the leftover theme, and the gathering lost its feeling of thrown-together camaraderie. People began dressing up for it and leaving the kids at home. My parents never attended the hijacked version of the party, but people who did assured them that the original was better.
Don’t despair, though. I think my Uncle Tom, Dad’s brother, still milks a moose now and then. And a few friends and descendants have been authorized by Dad to serve moose milk, which they do in small numbers, keeping the true spirit of the tradition alive.
So have some fun bidding farewell to 2003 and kicking 2004 off right. Happy New Year!
Today around the world: December 31 is New Year’s Eve across the globe. In Japan, it’s also Omisoka, a time when the family gathers to get ready to celebrate the new year. They clean house (susu harai), put things in order and decorate. In the evening they have toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) and then go to temple to make their wishes known to Buddhist or Shinto divinities. At midnight, in all Buddhist temples, the bell (bonsho) is rung 108 times to announce the new year.
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