New Year’s Day and the New York Times

Times_SquarePat here:

 Were you one of the billion people to stay up New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop over Times Square? Do you know who started this idiocy? The New York Times, that’s who.

At the turn of the 20th century, the NYT bought property in what was then called Long Acre Square (after London’s carriage district). Originally, the square was a large open horse market with dreary tenements surrounding it. But once electricity and public transit were installed, the area became a hot market. In 1903, the New York Times started building the second largest tower in the city at the time. Once it was complete, it apparently took very little arm twisting for the newspaper to persuade the city to rename the square after itself, and Times Square came into existence. In celebration, in 1904, the Times threw a huge block party on New Year’s Eve, well, huge for back then, anyway. The theater district consisted of maybe one theater, but they celebrated with music and fireworks every New Year’s Eve—until the city banned fireworks in 1907. In their place, an engineer built a 700 lb wood and iron ball illuminated by a hundred lights to drop from a flagpTimes Square Ball Drop by Michelleyyy is licensed under CC BY 2.0ole at midnight. And the tradition began!

Within a decade, the Times outgrew its skyscraper. That towering, skinny NYT office building offered prime real estate for advertising, especially for the theaters crowding into the area. A giant news ticker went up in 1928, and ultimately, the huge sides of the building started the trend of Times Square flashing advertisements. Today the building is mostly empty but the party and the crystal ball drop have become world famous. Nothing like a good party for creating a tourist attraction!

Did you watch the ball drop? If not, how did you celebrate the new year?

Image: Bernt Rostad from Oslo, Norway

Regency Twelfth Cake!

Twelfth-Cake-with-feathersNicola here. It’s Twelfth Night today, marking the end of the Christmas festivities (assuming that you count the twelve days from Christmas Day. Some traditions start counting on 26th December meaning you can keep partying until the 6th!)

There are a number of different ways in which Twelfth Night has been celebrated through the centuries. In the Georgian period they were keen on baking a special cake to mark the occasion. The Historic Food website has some fascinating information on this.

The earliest printed recipe for an English Twelfth Cake appears to date from 1803 and was Queen for the nightrecorded by John Mollard in his cookery book of that date. Originally the Twelfth Cake contained a pea and a bean and whoever found these in their slice were elected as King and Queen of the Twelfth Night festivities. In the early Victorian period, this tradition developed into “Twelfth Night Cards.” All the guests at the party would be invited to choose a card from a special pack illustrating the different “characters” of Twelfth Night. Along with the King and Queen these might include Sir Bob Bergamot the fop, Fanny Farcical the actress, Priscilla Passion… Well, you can imagine her profession! You then had to act in character for whichever card you had picked until midnight. Allegedly, Queen Victoria eventually banned the Twelfth Night parties for fear they were getting out of hand!

Partying may be banned at present as well but at least we can still eat cake. So if you fancy baking up a slice of Twelfth Cake, the original 1803 recipe is below:

Twelthnight-cakeTake seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron. When the sponge is risen, mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk; let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them, and when nearly cold ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose as per receipt; or they may be plain.

From John Mollard, The Art of Cookery. (London 1803).

There is a more modern recipe on the National Trust website.

Alternatively, you may prefer a different sort of Twelfth Night feast? What would your choice of special sweet or savoury treat be to celebrate the last night of Christmas?

Winners, Guests, etc.

WINNERS:

A-Winner Kristal Shepherd, you have won a book from Carla Kelly, and Lori, you're the winner of a book from Carola Dunn.  Remember, we usually have multiple winners every month, so be sure to check for your name in the "Winners" sidebar on the right, and also check for Sunday announcements.  Congratulations to this month's winners!

GUEST:

On Monday, 12/14 Phyllis Radford will be Patricia Rice's guest.  Phyllis is the editor of Shadow Conspiracy, a steampunk e-book based on Byron, Shelley, and Frankenstein.  She represents Book View Cafe, a completely author-operated publishing venue run by well known science fiction/fantasy/paranormal romance authors.

ASK-A-WENCH:

Mary Jo Putney is this month's host for AAW, and her post will deal with animals/pets in romances.  You won't want to miss this one.  Mark your calendars for 12/16

CHRISTMASTIDE:

As usual, the Wenches have something special planned for the holidays.  They'll be celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with a post every day, starting on December 26 and ending on January 6.  After that, it's back to the regular schedule.  Each post will be short and sweet, so it'll only take a minute of your time to drop by during the holidays.