Ring in the New Year 0

HappyNewYearAs 2015 draws to a close, the mind and attention turn to how to ring in the New Year. Most folks we know gather with friends celebrating together and waiting for the countdown to midnight. Some wear festive glasses and hats and decorate their homes with a splash of colorful banners and balloons. Some of our friends make it a night on the town. And still others sit and watch the ball drop in Times Square. However you celebrate, Card & Party Giant has a selection of New Year’s party kits, party supplies, wearables, decorations, poppers, neons, and noisemakers to make your holiday celebration a hit and bring in 2016 with a bang. How we celebrate New Year’s Eve and the traditions in which we immerse ourselves vary from culture to culture.  A friend of ours believes the New Year celebration should include a meal with grapes, greens, and beans.  Her meat of choice is pork and when you look at what is suggested to avoid for a prosperous year to follow, it makes sense. Eating grapes on New Year’s Eve comes from a Spanish or Portuguese tradition and involves each person eating 12 grapes – one for each stroke of the clock at midnight.  Each grape represents a month of the year and the goal is to finish all 12 grapes before the stroke of midnight. While I don’t understand the significance of eating of grapes, it is said this practice actually began as a way to use up the grapes left over after the harvest. Collard greens are prepared because green is the color of money. Thus the collard greens represent good fortune in the year to come.  And while the collard greens are said to resemble the paper money, black eyed peas, lentils, and beans are said to be a representation of coins. Thus, they are also related to the concept of good fortune in the coming year. In addition to the foods, to ensure everyone has a good time on New Year's eve, the party includes an assortment of liquid libations and, of course, sweets.  I don’t recall the particular sweets our friend prepares, but I know many countries have traditional New Year’s pastries. It seems most lean toward fried doughs of some kind and that they are covered with sweet sticky toppings like powdered sugar or honey.  And, in some cultures, a coin is hidden inside the cake. The person whose piece holds the treasure is said to be the lucky one for the coming year. And if you are particularly superstitious or just want to be extra careful to fill your tummy with the luckiest of foods, you have to avoid foods like lobster or chicken. Lobsters swim backwards and chickens scratch backwards. Thus both represent possible setbacks. Another tradition we honor with our friends is the practice of going out doors and tossing pennies to ring in the New Year. I must confess I never can bring myself to throw pennies in the street because it seems counter-intuitive that you throw money away to make it come to you. Silly or not we all have our superstitions. However you celebrate, enjoy. Have fun and stay safe.

Festival of Lights 0

20151124_140922The celebration of Hanukkah begins this year on the evening of December 6th. Hanukkah is celebrated mostly in the home, with families joined around the table to partake in the festivities. There may be party decorations to set the festive spirit, and the menorah is placed front and center at the table. Fried foods are eaten to commemorate the miracle of a day’s worth of oil lighting the temple for a full eight days. Parents prepare potato latkes or serve up jelly doughnuts for dessert. Everyone gathers around the menorah to light the Hanukkah candles, first one, then two, until all eight are lit on the eighth night of the Hanukkah celebration. Most families distribute small gifts to the children, one each night for each of the eight nights. Hanukkah gelt in the form of chocolate coins are a favorite treat that also sometimes are used as the ante for a game of dreidel. Songs are sung, and simple merriment is the spirit of the evening. Children look forward to the candle lighting, exchanging gifts, and eating the satisfying foods associated with the holiday. But in today’s busy, ever-changing world, families cannot always gather at the same table to celebrate the lighting of the candles. Some may choose one of the days of Hanukkah as the day for celebration.  Or, as I heard two young adult sisters discussing, set a date for face time or skype to share their Hanukkah. However you celebrate, whether you enjoy potato latkes or jelly doughnuts, whether you light candles and dispense gifts each night or have one day to celebrate the entire festival, may your Hanukkah be a joyous celebration and commemoration of a miracle that happened many centuries ago.

Thanksgiving Memories 0

tablewareThe very first Thanksgiving I can recall was when I was about seven years old. It may have been the first November after we moved into our home. It certainly was before my parents remodeled the house. That remodel resulted in the loss of the formal dining room. In fact, part of what stays etched in my mind about that particular Thanksgiving is the large room and dining table. Mom made a big deal about the holiday. She invited grandma and aunts and uncles, and cousins. She got up early to start the meal. I either watched or helped mix bread crumbs with egg and butter, onion, celery, spices and broth.  Even though I was only seven, I was the only daughter and often tagged along with my mom as she went about her daily routines. I am not sure that at age seven I was helping chop onions or celery, but I know I did help with that part of the meal almost every year from whatever age I was able. Mom and I would sit at the kitchen table, each wearing an apron, each with a cutting board, knife, and a vegetable to prepare.  I wasn’t allowed to help with fancy cutting because Mom never thought I was artistic enough. It’s true. Mom was right. I am not very artistic when it comes to food presentation. Anyway, on the first Thanksgiving I remember, I picture myself buzzing in and out of the kitchen to watch as my mom whipped up our meal. At least ten pounds of potatoes would have been peeled and placed in the boiling pot on the stove.  Sweet potatoes were candied and readied to be placed under the broiler once the turkey was done. The roasting turkey wafted throughout the house all day long. It remains one of my favorite aromas.  A turkey in the oven makes me think of family; it warms my heart and my tummy.  And perhaps just because of the idea of sharing a family meal tugs at my heart, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. As I close my eyes and think of that first memory of Thanksgiving, I can see the dining room where the table covers, napkins, and place settings all were perfectly arranged.  My parents, grandma, a great aunt, two uncles and two aunts sat at the big table. We children (myself, four brothers, and  five or six cousins) were seated at the proverbial “kids’ table” in the kitchen. The kitchen table wasn’t decorated as fancy as the dining room, but there was a Thanksgiving table cloth and fancy napkins for us too. Our party decorations were simple and tasteful. The day made special by the people and the food.  

Party On Chicagoland - Party On! 0

sportspartyIt is a great time to be a Chicago sports fan. On Sunday, the Chicago Bears defeated the Raiders in a home game. Their first win since last year! And if that inspires you to host a Chicago Bears football party on October 11th when the Bears face the Kansas City Chiefs, then you can stock up now on the party supplies that will add just the right touch to your table décor. But, if football just isn’t your thing, you can tool up for Wednesday night’s Wild Card game when the Chicago Cubs will face the Cincinnati Reds. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:08 (and for those who like superstitious premonitions – that’s 1908 in military time – or the last year the Cubs won the World Series). And again, we’ve got the party decorations, plates, napkins and other décor to set a table worthy of a World Series contender. Last, but surely not least, also on Wednesday, October 7th, the Chicago Blackhawks begin their season by raising the Stanley Cup banner at the UC before they face the New York Rangers.  That’s right, the only Chicago team to bring three championships in recent history, the Chicago Blackhawks are hosting their season opener on the same night the Chicago Cubs compete in the Wild Card game that determines their World Series destiny. If you’re a Chicago sports fan, I hope you have picture and picture and that you’re as ready as we are for a sports-themed party. We have decorations, table cloths, plates, napkins, and balloons.  Everything you need to make for a great Chicago sports themed party.  Stop by today!