Make Your Own Dyngus Day!

For those of you who fall into a post-Easter slump this Monday (part sugar coma, part basket-hiding fatigue), there’s an antidote to your ennui: Dyngus Day! The day after Easter, people of Slavic backgrounds, especially Polish and Ukrainian, celebrate the holiday by hitting each other with pussy willows and throwing water. Not Polish? No problem! Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day.

Let’s backtrack a bit. I grew up hearing my Slavic grandma talk about Dyngus Day, but never experienced it myself until I moved to Buffalo, NY. Buffalo throws an enormous Dyngus Day celebration every year; you can also celebrate in Cleveland, Ohio and South Bend, Indiana. If you can’t make it to any of those cities, we have a little guide to throw your own Dyngus Day party and break through those after-Easter blahs.

Know Your History, Ya Dyngus

First of all, Dyngus sounds like an insult from the 1930s, right? But it actually means … the eggs that are owed. Or “ransom.” You guessed it: the origins of the holiday, and the word, are fairly obscure. Suffice to say, Dyngus day originated sometime around the Middle Ages in the western Slav countries. One story claims that the holiday celebrates the baptism of Mieszko I, who unified Poland in the 10th century. By the 20th century, Dyngus Day was celebrated in Polish and Ukrainian immigrant communities worldwide. The largest party is in Buffalo, and the celebration as it exists today began in the 1960s. There are parties across the city, a parade, and as much polka as you can handle (or more, depending on your polka threshold).

Just A Good Old-Fashioned Fertility Festival

There’s a theory that Dyngus Day began as one of those pre-Christian Spring fertility rituals, and when you look at the elements of a traditional Dyngus celebration, it seriously adds up. For the essential part of any Dyngus Day, you must have the following:

  • Boys throwing water on girls. The more attractive you are, the more water will be thrown at you.
  • Girls paying off the boys to stop. With EGGS. Hey, symbolism.
  • Boys also hit girls with pussy willows, so there’s that.

Now, how does this play out in modern times? A free-for-all water fight, basically. Everyone hits everyone with pussy willows. It’s fun! It also sounds 100% like a holiday that Dwight Schrute would celebrate.

Ready Your Traditional Polish Easter Foods

I’ve never been anywhere where Easter was a bigger deal than in Buffalo, and the traditional Polish Easter food is a huge part of it. (I feel like Buffalo should capitalize on both that, and also that they are almost indisputably the Mustache Capitol of America).

Obviously, all of these items are still popular the day after Easter. You can expect to find:

  • Butter lambs
  • Lamb cakes
  • Pirogi
  • Kielbasa
  • Kouign, a ring-shaped filled pastry which isn’t the same as kouign-amann, and isn’t the same as kuchen, and doesn’t seem to exist on the internet … but I’ve already had it twice this Easter season and it’s only Monday morning.
  • Kapusta, which is like if sauerkraut grew up and became more than just a garnish.
  • Placek AKA Easter Cake AKA begin your spring workout regimen tomorrow
  • Golabki, the Polish take on the burrito, which is probably destined to become a low-carb, low-gluten trend because it’s wrapped in cabbage.
  • Chalka (yep, obviously related to Challah), a braided bread with eggs in it. It’s pretty.
  • This red cabbage thing that I never tried.

Polka? I Don’t Even Know Her

Polka is to music as dad jokes are to jokes, so that heading was appropriate. While I can’t deny that polka music is peppy, and that the musicians are very skilled, I do have to say that it’s not for everyone. I grew up on Irish folk music, and it’s similar in a way: some people love it, others find that it sounds like those children’s albums they put out about, like, why it’s good to brush your teeth. But at least this one day every year, you should be ready to listen to all the accordion music your ears can take. And lest you think it all sounds the same, at least one young Cleveland polka DJ is calling attention to the different forms of polka.

If you really hate Polka, there are also Polish-American rappers – and bonus! This video was filmed in the Ruff Buff on Dyngus Day:

Red And White or GTFO

Just like crowds on St. Patrick’s Day are decked out in green, everyone wears red and white on Dyngus Day. And since everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day, it doesn’t matter if those aren’t really your colors.

Shoutout To The Children In Traditional Garb

 If red isn’t your color, how about some beautifully embroidered traditional outfits, instead? There’s nothing cuter than a child dressed as one of those Madame Alexander Children Of The World dolls, right?

Take Monday Off. And Maybe Tuesday.

Above all, Dyngus Day is a huge party – so big that festivities take place throughout the day in Buffalo, so you may as well take the day off. It’s also possibly as big a drinking day as St. Patrick’s Day, so maybe you’ll want to take Tuesday off as well. Happy Dyngus Day!


Easter Movies, From Godspell to The 10 Commandments To Mallrats

For me, one of the biggest signs that Easter is still primarily a religious holiday is the dearth of Easter movies. There are hundreds of Christmas movies that never mention the birth of Jesus, but there are only a handful of Easter movies – and most of them basically stick to the book. What I’m saying is, some of these Easter movies are a stretch, but I’m working with what I’ve got. Happy(?) Holy Thursday, if that applies to you, and have a good Easter, too!


This is what I’m talking about when I talk about Easter movies! Godspell is my personal favorite Jesus musical, an admittedly small genre. You ever notice that some people are Godspell people, and some are Jesus Christ Superstar people, and then everyone else is like “what are you even talking about?” Godspell is cheerful pseudo-hippie 1970s, whereas JCS is glam rock-y 70s, but both tell the story of Jesus as a (cheesy?) musical that I love.  Godspell is based on the Gospel of Matthew and focuses on Jesus’ parables and his more peace-and-love type teachings. I’m going to go all-caps for a second, okay? VICTOR “MR. ANDREWS” GARBER AS JESUS. Okay? I am just warning you, this movie may leave you with a weird crush on both Victor Garber and Jesus.

*(Aside: I absolutely love movies filmed in 1970s-1990s New York, maybe because it looks like the New York I remember as a kid in the 90s, so that’s a bonus.)

Jesus Christ Superstar

While this is mostly an unranked list, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar probably are my top two Easter movies. While I like the stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie is a bit less visually appealing to me (read: set in the desert). Also, it focuses on the Jesus/Judas relationship. I love a frenemy situation in musical theater (Hamilton! right?), but it also makes it feel a little darker and less uplifting than Godspell. Nevertheless, my corny musical-loving self is always here for an Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice collab.

My advice, if you can find it: watch the 2001 Great Performances version with Glenn Carter and Renee Castle instead of the 1973 film. We watched it in a high school theatre class and it’s when I really started to like Jesus Christ Superstar.

The Passion Of The Christ

I worked in a movie theater during this movie’s 2004 release, and I can honestly say that the worst customers I encountered were some of the church groups who came in en masse to the early morning shows. Also I worked at the concession stand at the time, and it sort of felt like a weird movie to nosh on Skittles and popcorn during, but what do I know. Customers aside, the hype was deserved and … it pains me a bit to say … Mel Gibson did a great job telling the story of the crucifixion in a fresh way. It was also graphically violent and isn’t a movie I’ve ever felt the need to rewatch.

The 10 Commandments

The 10 Commandments is usually on TV on Easter, even if it’s not technically an Easter Movie. It’s a Cecil B. DeMille Technicolor classic from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner, The 10 Commandments focuses on the story of Moses and will set you back almost four hours, including intermission. I guess it’s televised at Easter because the Moses story is kind of the lead-up to the New Testament, or maybe because it’s the only religious movie that was really in the game for a while there.

Plus, Easter and Passover are both in early Spring, and it illustrates the Passover beautifully.


This should be one of our Pop Culture Blind Spots, because I’ve never seen it. As best I can tell, it’s about non-Bible characters who live at the same time as Jesus, participate in a chariot race, then witness the crucifixion. Not only have I not seen the movie, I didn’t read the book, either. Charlton Heston is in it, of course, and it’s a beloved classic, so I should really get on this.

Assorted Jesus Films And TV Miniseries

A note: there are plenty of other movies about the life of Jesus, some better than others. There’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, a Scorsese drama that caused a fair bit of controversy when it was released, and Jesus, a 1999 tv-movie staring Jeremy Sisto as Jesus and Debra Messing as Mary Magdelene (it was the height of the Will and Grace era). There are scores of others, too, so basically pick your favorite if that’s what you feel like watching. I haven’t seen any that seemed better than the others, necessarily, so maybe watch one of the more recent ones if dated costumes and sets will pull you out of it.

Assorted Children’s Specials

You won’t want to watch any of these unless you are trying to entertain a child, probably. I vividly remember The Greatest Adventure, an Easter cartoon about a child who goes back in time to witness the crucifixion. If you were in Catholic school, that passed for a really good Friday afternoon if your teacher rolled out the TV cart and played that bad boy.

Believe it or not, popular cartoons had Easter specials, too: the Smurfs, Rugrats, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are a few Easter Bunny specials that probably air on whatever ABC Family goes by these days: Here Comes Peter Cottontail, that kind of thing. Compared to Christmas, the pickings are VERY slim. There’s always Veggie Tales, if that’s something your kids like!


Now for an entirely different movie: Hop, a 2011 cartoon/live-action hybrid featuring the voices of Russell Brand and Hugh Laurie. I watched this with some nieces and nephews a few years ago, and I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. Bottom line: if you really want an Easter-y children’s movie,this isn’t a bad choice. The kids liked it, anyway.

The Sound Of Music

Definitely not an Easter movie, but The Sound Of Music always used to be on TV at Easter, maybe because networks look for movies that the whole family can enjoy when they’re together. Some of the scenery is sort of spring-y, plus the overall vibe of The Sound Of Music just feels like it fits with Easter and springtime. Okay: maybe I’m just up for any excuse to watch The Sound Of Music.

My first year of law school, a final paper for a class was due the day after Easter. I worked on it for weeks, finished it on Easter night just before The Sound Of Music began, and I swear, sitting down to watch The Sound Of Music felt like almost as refreshing as a beach vacation.

Miss Potter

Now things get tenuous. Beatrix Potter wrote about rabbits, and we think about rabbits at Easter, and this is a movie about Beatrix Potter. But honestly, there is all of this spring-y Lake District scenery, all of this rain and these farm animals, and it really does feel like Easter. Plus, Beatrix Potter-inspired cartoons always used to be on TV near Easter, so I still associate it with Easter.

The Secret Garden

One thing I love about Easter-time (at least here in the Northeast) is seeing life slowly spring back – watching crocuses start to erupt, and then tulips, and – if my garden is any indication – then a whole bunch of weeds, somehow, even though it’s still cold out. A whole sequence of The Secret Garden is about watching the garden come back to life, and that feels very Easter to me.

There are a few adaptations to choose from. Margaret O’Brien was great, but I sort of grew up on the 1993 version.

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn was a little bit of 1940s marketing genius. First of all, it stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Second, it’s literally set (mostly) in an inn where many holidays are celebrated. It manages to be a Christmas movie (White Christmas), Lincoln’s Birthday (the less said the better: blackface), Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and, of course, Easter(Easter Parade). Basically, you could pull this movie out at any time of the year, and it would be seasonally appropriate (and a little racist. It’s fine to skip that part).

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Not an Easter movie, but there’s a memorable Easter scene. Christos Anesti!


I told you there weren’t a lot of Easter movies, but who could forget the Easter Bunny scene from Mallrats? That’s enough to make the whole thing an Easter movie, in my book.

Life Of Brian

I wasn’t into Monty Python in high school, because I wasn’t in marching band and I didn’t run lights for the plays, and it seemed like everyone who did those activities loved Monty Python and everyone who loved Monty Python did those activities. But Life Of Brian is funny no matter WHAT extracurriculars you did 15 years ago! It’s about a man, Brian, who lived a life parallel to Jesus, except he was just Brian, a guy.

Questions, Comments, Concerns: The Passion

It’s time for another live TV production for everyone on the Internet to comment on! We’ve previously covered The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz, Grease: Live! and now we’re giving our thoughts on everyone’s favorite musical, The Passion. Although it’s technically not a musical, but more of a story with music.

What even is The Passion? It’s basically the story of the final days of Jesus’ life. This passion play has been done for years around the world, but this specific show is derived from a British TV production, where celebrities paraphrase certain Bible passages which tell the story of Easter, and in between, they sing live performances of pop songs relevant to the story. Meanwhile, a group of people carry a huge cross towards the main stage in the center square where all the action takes place.

The Passion has been huge in The Netherlands over the past few years, and each year it takes place in a different city. In the American version, Tyler Perry’s The Passion took place in New Orleans on Sunday, which was Palm Sunday aka the Sunday before Easter. Whether you’re a believer or not, there’s still a lot to talk about regarding the actual show, so here are some questions, comments, and concerns that came up while watching this musical event for the first time.

Question: What is this stage?

It looks like it could double as Justin Bieber’s latest tour stage.

Concern: This is not a play

Apparently this show is more of a presentation than a theatrical play. I thought it was more along the lines of telling the Easter story with music, but according to Tyler Perry, it’s not. He is the emcee/host/storyteller/narrator of this show, and I also didn’t realize he was going to be doing an opening monologue and continuously explain what’s happening or what’s about to happen. He starts on the Bieber stage in the middle of New Orleans’ Woldenberg Park, and at one point, he’s trying to get through his speech but people start cheering and he pauses to let them continue cheering. It’s… weird? He also says, “…As New Orleans becomes our Jersusalem” there are more cheers from the crowd, who are v excited to see their city turned into the big JC’s hometown.

Comment: Yolanda Adams is serving Jesus chic in this dress

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams sings the first song of the night, When Love Takes Over, originally by David Guetta and Kelly Rowland. I guess it works.

Comment: I’m thrown by the pre-taped packages

Tyler Perry throws to the huge video screens which show Jesus (Jencarlos Canela) rolling with his crew aka the disciples featuring Prince Royce (Peter), Chris Daughtry (Judas) and Christian singer Michael W. Smith (misc. disciple) singing Celine Dion’s Love Can Move Mountains. They’re initially on a famous New Orleans trolley and make their way to some large park and it’s clear this was one of the pre-taped segments for the show. I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around what’s happening. Like there are these folks on the trolley who I think are acting as if Jencarlos is Jesus, but the folks near Tyler Perry are regular audience members. So I guess the Bieber stage is present day and everywhere else is “Jerusalem”? Does it even matter that I have to delineate which one is which?

Question: Is Tyler Perry going to keep telling us what’s about to happen?

Is it necessary to give a character breakdown of all the people in this show? Tyler Perry gives a brief description of the main players in JC’s crucifixion story, but I feel like we can figure it out? But I guess if no one’s saying lines describing what happened in makes sense? And I get that if people are tuning in and not familiar with the Bible/this story and have no idea who the “characters” involved in this story are, you have to explain it… but why are they watching anyways?

Comment: I see you Pontious Pilate

 You talkin’ to no one, Seal.

Comment: Tricia Yearwood is still a solid singer

Trisha is playing the role of JC’s mom Mary. By “playing” I mean Tyler Perry tells me she’s Mary and Trisha sings a song describing how Mary felt towards her son Jesus. On the bright side, I will say it’s hard to cover a Whitney song and be good at it but Trisha’s doing My Love Is Your Love justice.

Concern: All of the disciples’ scenes are possibly pre-taped

We cut to JC and his disciples in a coffee shop and JC is all, ‘Yo Peter, you gonna be the main man to build this whole Christianity thang’ and Peter’s all… ‘Imma dip out byeeeeee’.

Comment: This is giving me Left Behind vibes

Right now, I feel like I’m watching a Christian movie and Kirk Cameron is going to pop up at any second.

Concern: Jesus is… offputting

Is it horrible that I do not care for the way Jencarlos is playing Jesus right now? It feels forced and he has a hint of cockiness to how he’s playing it, and I don’t like it one bit.

Comment: Cross bearers are part of a glorified news report

Throughout the show, a giant illuminated cross is being carried through the city with more and more people joining the group as they go along the route. Joining them is Nischelle Turner, who is a reporter on Entertainment Tonight – I only know this because I have to watch ET every day but they didn’t mention it during the show. She’s basically like the man on the ground with the cross bearers and talking with some of them as they go. So that’s a thing we didn’t see in Grease: Live!

Comment: “Celebrity” cameos are happening

Jesus goes up to a food truck and asks for loaves and fishes (see: parable). Top Chef alum and The Chew host Carla Hall works on the Fish & Bread (???) truck and happily gives it to him, but did we need a cameo from a familiar face in this?

Comment: No one likes Creed

this is a real angelfire site

Jesus is singing Creed’s With Arms Wide Open during The Last Supper but I think JC would still be on the side of most people by saying Creed isn’t the best.

Concern: Time is going slowly

Trisha Yearwood is currently singing contemporary pop hit Hands by Jewel and legit I feel like I’ve been watching this for 2 hours but it’s only been 30 minutes.

Comment: The cross just went down Bourbon Street

The illuminated cross was brought down New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street, which if you don’t know is home to a bunch of bars and a lot of Mardi Gras celebrations. So that’s a first. Nischelle interviewed a man who is in the military and also a woman whose teenage son was killed due to violence, so in addition to the Christian story they’re telling, they’re also incorporating social issues. Tyler Perry made a few (horrible) jokes too. I’m just so confused as to what this whole thing is.

Question: Why is Judas singing Evanescence in an empty factory

Judas is having some internal struggles while he battles betraying Jesus, so he decides to since Bring Me To Life by Evanescence in a dark, empty, creepy factory building. I find it impressive yet unnerving due to the location, but Tyler Perry has a different response, saying of the (pre-taped) scene, “Wow, I believe he’s in turmoil.”

Comment: The audience is feelin it

 A lot of the audience members are really feeling the show and are getting emotional. It looks like it could be a scene from Jesus Camp. But then there are some who are the folks who constantly are aware they’re on TV and wave every chance they get.

Comment: Jesus Christ: The Unauthorized Musical

I just realized the best way to describe this show – an unauthorized musical about the final days of Jesus’ life. Remember how a couple of producers in LA have made the Unauthorized Cruel Intentions musical and the Unauthorized The O.C. musical (which I pitched songs for) and the upcoming Unauthorized Friday Night Lights musical? This is what that is. Retelling a story with the characters singing “modern” pop songs is exactly what The Passion is and I wish I truly understood that before I watched this.

Question: Why is it taking so long for Judas to kiss Jesus

Honestly, there’s no time for singing. He needs to betray him immediately. I will say that this is a powerful scene with the police taking Jesus away while the other disciples fight back and an eerie reminder this is what’s happening in America and not just fictionalized Jerusalem.

Comment: Lil Wayne tho

This commercial featuring Lil Wayne just aired and I am dying. He’s actually really funny! And maybe the most entertaining part of this show!

Question: Where is Hoobastank?

Because they’re still getting royalties off The Reason 12 years later and honestly, good for them. But was I missing Hoobastank in my life? No.

Concern: How heavy is this cross tho?

Photo Mar 22, 12 20 03 AM

I know a bunch of folks are carrying the cross and the weight is distributed evenly, but still, it can’t be easy to carry a large illuminated cross for 2 miles.

Comment: A real musical in a faux musical

Trisha’s singing You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel and I’d honestly rather watch Carousel right now.

Comment: Seal as Pontius Pilate

Jesus is in custody and brought to the Bieber stage for the first time since the show started an hour and a half ago. Seal also shows up as Pontius Pilate and I’ve always thought that if Seal played a villain it wouldn’t be a stretch. Also, they’re singing a song I’ve never heard before called We Don’t Need Another Hero, which is apparently by Tina Turner for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Comment: I think I’m biased against Seal

Remember last week when I said Kiss From a Rose was overplayed and I ended up hating it because of its heavy rotation? I think that has made me subconsciously dislike Seal and throughout his entire rendition of Mad World, I tuned out.

Question: Is Lifehouse a Christian band?

Trisha Yearwood is singing Lifehouse’s Broken, which is not only a song I’ve never heard of but, seamlessly fits as a song Mary sings as she says goodbye to her son. It’s such a good match that I’m wondering if Lifehouse made a foray into Christian music.

Comment: Tyler Perry has confidence

The way pastor Tyler Perry is talking and saying how “amazing” the show is makes it seem like he’s overly confident like he is well aware all of America is watching and tweeting about this show right now. Update: 6.61 million people tuned in to see The Passion, which is way down from when Fox did Grease: Live in January. To put it in perspective, more people watched Steve Harvey’s new kid talent show Little Big Shots than The Passion.

Question: Is Jesus about to pull a Michael Scott?

After the crucifixion (that Tyler Perry described to us instead of it being acted out), Jesus rises from the dead and Jencarlos shows up on the roof of a building overlooking the Bieber stage and the reveal of his location is legit like Michael Scott going on roof of Dunder Mifflin and threatening to jump. Also, it’s really windy which is a bit concerning.

Comment: I guess that was ok

Photo Mar 22, 12 09 28 AM

I think the main problem is that although I knew what the idea of the show was, I still thought it was going to be more like Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. Not to say it was horrible. You know who probably really liked this show? My parents. My parents who are super in the big JC and are probably talking about it like we talk about the last episode of Scandal. So, glad they finally have a TV program to chat about.


Let’s Make Easter Bonnets The New Christmas Sweater

Easter may be the “most important” Christian religious holiday, but it’s no Christmas. Sure, we have some Easter traditions – egg hunts, making children sit on top of a man dressed like a rabbit (and also making a man wear a rabbit suit made of low-pile carpeting), dipping hard-boiled eggs in vinegar-laced food coloring – but as a season of festive joy and anticipation, Christmas clearly wins. Not only do we have fewer Easter traditions, they’re also all geared towards children. And arguably furries.


There’s kind of a reason for this. The Christmas story is fairly cute and approachable – it involves a baby, barnyard animals and a magical star. Easter is sort of unpleasant in comparison, and it takes a bit more work to get kids to understand it. For instance, last Easter my nephew Henry announced “Zurg died on the cross.” If you didn’t know: Zurg is the bad guy from Toy Story. I asked who put Zurg there, because I’m not responsible for this kid; I just get to “yes, and” him. “Jesus did,” he answered. Huh. Yeah, I sort of understand why we’re just like “Don’t worry about the whole Easter thing, just go sit on this man-rabbit and eat some candy.”

He died so we may live.


A few weeks ago, Henry – now four years old – started asking weird questions again. First: “What’s an orphan?” and then “Well, how would I get my mommy one?” Aunts of the world: just keep “yes, and” -ing that shit. It all started to come together a few days later, when he asked me “Aunt Molly, what’s an Easter bon?” That’s when I realized that (1) he was asking about an Easter bonnet, and (2) these questions were coming from the lyrics to Peter Cottontail, which means, rather reassuringly, (3) It was an orchid for your mommy; and my nephew is not trying to procure a parentless child for his mother. Phew.

Luckily, I didn’t have to try to explain what an Easter bonnet was – that was less a job for Aunt Molly and more a job for Aunt Google Image Search. And holy cow, guys! I thought they were just dumb hats that old ladies wear to church, or little girls’ straw hats with itchy elastic straps under the chin. But no, there is a whole world of wacky Easter Bonnets out there.

That’s when it all came together. We need a fun, stupid Easter activity for grown-ups. Something to get you in the holiday spirit, something that looks entirely ridiculous when you look at it just a month later. Something like EASTER BONNETS. Hear me out for a second. Chances are, you’ve attended an Ugly Holiday Sweater party in the past few years. Holidays make adults want to act like goofy kids again, and ugly sweaters help you do just that. There’s no real Easter equivalent unless you’re a seven-year-old girl or one of those church ladies who wears an Aretha hat. Unless- unless! – we start decorating bonnets in a party atmosphere. There are so many possibilities – just look:

Now, most of these pictures are from the UK, which makes me think that our UK readers are reading this saying “yeah, Easter bonnets. Easter eggs. Everybody knows this.” But no! They really aren’t as big a thing in the U.S., except in the Easter Parade, and I don’t know anybody who has actually gone to that. Oh, also our Easter Eggs are actual EGGS here, not the giant chocolate affairs you can buy overseas. We’re really struggling with the whole Easter thing in the States. So I say next year, we all throw Ugly Easter Bonnet parties, and everyone gussies up their fanciest bonnet. Whoever makes the tackiest one wins! Then we can all go celebrate Jesus’s victory over Emperor Zurg – the real reason for the season.

Carnival is Weird: World Edition

For partiers and the lackadaisical types, this week has been perfect so far. On Monday, many Americans stayed at home or enjoyed a good sale thanks to Presidents Day. On Tuesday, many folks reveled in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Many kids have the entire week of for winter break, and hell, Mardi Gras is still alive and well. For those who need a quick reminder, Mardi Gras = Fat Tuesday, a celebration of everything in excess before you fast or give things up for Lent, the time period leading up to Easter. Now Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration in the U.S., but around the world, there are oh so many more extravagant parties.

When I studied in the Netherlands, I happened to be in Nice, France during their weeklong version of Mardi Gras, which is Carnival. You probably relate the term to the biggest one in Rio, where I’m pretty convinced no one goes to work for like, a good month. I had never experienced anything like it before – drinking, parades, people dancing in the street, just a lot of organized chaos and large bejeweled costumes. People do Carnival big overseas, and to be quite honest, some of the floats and masks and costumes are just plain weird. And scary. But mostly weird. While you’re sitting at work today, here are so people around the world that are actually having a better (yet odder) week than you.


Sao Paulo – If you stare into her glasses long enough, you’ll think she’s the love child of Beetlejuice and Lady Gaga

Rio – I feel like this is the version of the Hulk I would see if I was tripping on shrooms. Do kids still do that these days?

Rio – Obviously Rio has the largest Carnival in the world with tourists flocking there every year, but the scariest thing about this picture isn’t the creepy sleeping mask float – it’s the thousands of people crammed in that arena. I MEAN THE PARKING MUST BE A NIGHTMARE

Rio – Carnival: Where you can get a cheerful reminder that global warming exists and we’re all gonna die soon

Paraty – Outside of Rio, there are plenty more Carnival celebrations, and in Paraty, they have what’s called the “Bloco da Lama” or “Mud Block” carnival party. According to local legend, the off tradition of covering yourself in dark mud and dancing dates back to 1986 (exactly our year of birth), when teens who were hiking in a nearby forest slathered themselves in mud to ward off mosquitoes as they went through the town. The tradition has grown every since. IDK, you can go to the Korean Spa and get something like this without the danger of diseases or whatever is in dark mud.


Cologne – Nothing says “I’m ready for Lent” like cut plastic watering cans with tiny disco balls and feathers attached to it.

Munderkingen – My, what large nostrils you have scary clown man!

Wuerzberg – For some reason I feel like this pink elephants got lost on their way to the pride parade.

Mainz – Is this the episode of Walking Dead where the dude from Love Actually starts killing German zombies?

Wuerzburg – Ich wanna Rock and Roll all night!

Mainz – Vlad Putin. In a bear costume. On a float that says “Problem Bear” … in GERMANY.

Dusseldorf – Apparently the Germans like to incorporate a lot of political floats in their parades.

The Netherlands

Roermond – I just feel like people must be high 24/7 during Carnival week in order to just get through it.


Venice – Never has Venice looked so much like the set of Pretty Little Liars.


Mohacs – I know where the wild things are


Aguilas – Not shitting you. These are dancing Jim Carreys from The Mask. Apparently Aguilas is 21 years late to the party. Sssssmmmmookin! *jazz hands*

Luzon – In more frightening Carnival news, Luzon holds the La Fiesta de los Diablos y Mascaritas, or Festival of Devils and Masks. Clearly the dude with the horns represents the devils and the ladies are the masks. Couldn’t pay me enough to hang out with these people.

Luzon – I mean come on. For Lent I would give up hanging out with anyone who dresses like Babe the Blue Ox’s long lost evil twin brother.

Lesaka – Spain, seriously, what’s up with your Carnival traditions? In the small village of Lesaka, townspeople dress as the “Zaku Zaharrak”, or “Old Sack”. After the sun sets, they cover their faces with white handkerchiefs, stuff themselves with straws in sacks, hold a stick of an inflated animal’s bladder (which is used to hit people), and roam through the streets for hours dancing to an accompanied band. Hide yo kids. Hide yo wives.


Lucerne – I’d like to call this series “Switzerland takes well-known children’s story characters and fucks it all up”. Here is Shrek and Princess Fiona, who is apparently being held at gunpoint.

Lucerne – “How do you expect me to grow, if you won’t let me blow??”

Lucerne – Antonio Banderas sure has changed since his split with Melanie Griffith.

Lucerne – In which the Native American crying by the side of the road goes to see Dr. 90210 and has a botched face lift.

Lucerne – Just kidding. THIS is the episode of The Walking Dead where the dude from Love Actually travels to Switzerland in the 1960s.

Lucerne – Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game

Lucerne – Frozen 2: The long lost third princess of Arendelle returns from Star Trek Deep Space Nine

What To Give Up For Lent (And How Much It Will Suck)

Growing up in Catholic school, it was always a given that we’d give something up during Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter. We even had these construction paper “rocks” (which totally looked like potatoes) , and we had to write what we were giving up on the back of it and tape it up on a “road to the cross” in the upstairs hallway.

When I was older I started adding something to do during Lent instead of giving something up, but there are some good reasons to go the traditional route and sacrifice something. Doing without something may give you extra money you can use for a good cause. Sacrificing a thing that takes up a lot of your time can free you up to be more present for others. When you give something up, every time you think of it you turn inward a little bit. Just like a kid in a toy store, sometimes even adults need to be reminded that you can’t get everything you want.

Every year around this time, I go through a mental list of things I can give up (or start doing), and take inventory of how much they will suck. Things that are too easy get the axe, but some things just seem impossible. Now that it’s Ash Wednesday (or, as most people I run into today call it, “Hey, did you know you have something on your forehead?”), here are my assessments:


Without fail, every year my teacher would suggest that we give up candy for Lent, saying that we could bring in our candy money to donate to charity instead. And without fail, every year I thought “who the heck are these children whose parents give them candy money?” I didn’t get an allowance and I sure didn’t get a special allowance just to rot my teeth. I don’t think most adults eat enough candy to make this a sacrifice, but maybe this would work if you have a real sweet tooth. It won’t alter the course of your whole life or anything, but this will do as a small sacrifice.


I think what giving up candy is to a child, giving up coffee would be to an adult. You could even give your coffee money to a good cause. But the downside is, if you give up coffee you CANNOT DRINK COFFEE. I suppose you could sub in tea or soda if you are just giving up coffee, not caffeine. If you’re looking for some serious self-denial, this would be it.

Another thought: add up how much you’d spend on coffee, and get a few gift cards to a nearby chain coffee place to hand out the next time someone on the street asks you for money for food.


Ah, here we go. One year I gave up The Devil’s Water, and I was so glad I did. By now we all know that soda is bad for you and diet soda (my poison of choice)  is really, really bad for you. As with coffee, every time you think of going to that soda machine you can stash away the $1.25 or whatever and give it to someone who needs it.


One year my grandfather gave up beer. He took up whiskey. So, make sure you’re specific about this! Now that I’m a real-live adult this wouldn’t make a difference to me, but during college? Now THAT’s a sacrifice.

Fast Food

Giving up fast food, if it’s something you eat regularly, will really force you to be more intentional. You have to plan, shop, and cook – and you just may find that you like it! You’ll probably save a few bucks, as well. If you’re a regular fast-foodie, you can take a cue from the coffee-quitters and buy some small gift cards for the fast food place you would be going to, and give them to people or organizations that can use them.


So, here’s the thing about dessert. If you eat it regularly, this is a great thing to give up because it will be a real sacrifice. But if you’re using giving up dessert as a way to get a jump-start on some sort of weight loss goal, that sort of feels like cheating. But I suppose you could just look at it as a two-for-one deal.


My plan this year was to give up makeup – honestly,I only wear it maybe half the time anyway. The plan started because I absolutely loathe those Dove Real Beauty ads, especially the one featuring a heavily freckled woman posing in front of two checkboxes reading, “flawed?” and “flawless?” or – in a “sassier” version, “”ugly spots?” and “beauty spots?” As the freckliest person I’ve seen, I cringed every time l saw it. Other ads slyly tell you what you have to fix, but this one blatantly said “hey, your freckles are considered ugly by the world! (but not by your friends at Dove ® !)” The whole point of that Dove crud is that “everybody is beautiful!” which frankly I don’t agree with. Beauty is just one of many inborn advantages – like being a good writer, athletic, or musical – but it’s treated differently. It’s treated like something everybody has to have, and to me, a better message than “everyone is beautiful! (shame about those freckles)”  is “it’s nice to be pretty, but if you’re not, that’s fine too!” And what better way to walk the walk than to give up cosmetics for 40 days?

And then…last week  I asked for a haircut between chin and shoulder length, and it ended up being roughly ear length. I’m still a LITTLE shallow, and suddenly, I wanted the option to feel a little less ugly on the days where I look like a boy or a middle-aged lady. It was a nice idea, and I’ll still only probably wear makeup about half of the time, but I think this one will have to wait until next year for me.


Oh, you brave souls. For me, it wouldn’t be the 40 days without TV that’s hard. I don’t think I’d miss it. It’s how darn stressed out I would be about catching up on my shows afterwards! Before you say “well, why don’t you just skip those 5 weeks of episodes altogether?”, I’m going to stop you and suggest that you probably don’t really love TV or you wouldn’t be asking that question.

Another problem is avoiding TV on the internet – not even full episodes, but the constant clips from Jimmy Fallon and the like that are posted all over Facebook and Twitter. Does that count as TV? Possibly the most important consideration: how will you stay spoiler free? Lots to think about here, but always a good choice.


This was THE thing to give up several years ago, but it’s lost a bit of its punch. If you’re a very regular Facebooker, this will force you to connect with people in real life more. I use Facebook but I’m not particularly into it. I don’t even really like it. I think giving up Facebook is a great option for people like that, too — to quit doing something that takes up your time and attention that you’re only doing out of habit, anyway.


I don’t eat meat and haven’t for over 10 years. Frankly I couldn’t care less what other people do, and I don’t need to know anyone’s reasons for eating meat — I just assume that whatever the reason is, it’s probably valid. [Oddly enough, the only times it comes up is when someone finds out I don’t eat meat, and tries to start an argument with me – when I’d NEVER confront them about their personal habits and choices. Don’t do that. End rant.] But for Lent, I will suggest that it’s worth a try. Catholics are already doing it 1/7 of the time anyway, right?  It’s not even hard to eat a completely vegetarian diet if you don’t have other dietary restrictions. Still, it will come up often enough that you’ll probably feel like it’s a bit of a sacrifice. If you feel like looking up the moral and ethical concerns of eating meat, you can be happy to know that taking a 40-day break could make a little dent in things – you don’t have to give it up altogether.


Back in the days when the internet was just, you know, chatrooms and Geocities fan pages, this was a viable option. This would be so hard though, because how would you find anything out? Or get directions to places? Not to mention, most of us need to use email and the internet for work. I guess you could give up what people used to(?) call “surfing the internet,” and just use it for business and practical purposes. Clearly, we won’t be doing that.

Gossip Sites

I did this during the winter of Britney Spears’ discontent. Remember the shaved head? It was hard going, but worth it.

The Weirdest Things You Can Give Up

I “surfed the Internet” (bringing it back, y’all) to see what other people were giving up, and there were some exceptionally WTF answers. To wit: Using the dishwasher (FYI:  hand-washing uses significantly more water, so save the earth and use the damn dishwasher, Christians); shoes (for the Lent observer who doesn’t go out in public and wants to celebrate Easter Sunday with fewer than 10 toes); electricity (I mean are you MOVING TO A HUT IN THE WILDERNESS?? because otherwise that’s not going to work great); Catholicism (that joke was only funny the first time); chips (like candy, I wonder who eats chips that often. I think I only eat them when I forget to upgrade to fries with my sandwich. Look, I never said I was healthy); your car (viable in some locations, but even as person who takes the bus to work, this morning I’d have had to walk 2 miles in 5-degree temperatures with no sidewalks to get to the nearest stop. So, NO); carbs (that’s called Atkins, not Lent, weirdo); and Buzzfeed quizzes (actually, for all of our sakes, how about you at least give up posting your Buzzfeed quiz results on social media.)

Live Blog: Easter Lamb Cake

The Lamb Cake has a long and storied history in my family. Lamb cakes are an Easter tradition among Eastern Europeans, and my grandmother made one every year when my mom was little. Although my grandmother’s mother admonished her to “just tell everyone you are Irish,” she was actually entirely Slovak. Yes, this was the beautiful time in our nation’s history when not only did some people of color have to try to pass as white, but white people tried to pass as other kinds of white people.

This lamb cake mold dates to the 1950s, and is a heavy cast iron number, apparently part of a limited edition casting (number 866!). Nobody really wanted it after my grandparents died because nobody made lamb cakes, so my mom and her siblings decided to put it up in the estate sale at my grandparents’ house. They had seen that these molds fetch a good price on eBay, so they priced it pretty high and figured that if it didn’t sell, they could just get a better price online later.

The day of the sale, they noticed the mold was gone. The siblings consulted each other, and none of them had sold it. My aunt took off for the antique store (because this town is so small that there is AN antique store), and found a man at the counter selling the mold. Clearly it was the same one, because it was a limited edition casting (number 866!).  He claimed that somebody at the estate sale sold it to him for a dollar. Of course, after asking around, it became clear that wasn’t true. The robber made off with the lamb cake mold because he figured if it was priced that high, he could get a good amount for it at the antique store! Dummy.

After that, it seemed like maybe my family shouldn’t get rid of it. My mom took it, tried to make the lamb cake the next year using the recipe printed by the lamb cake mold company, and declared that it was awful. A few years later, I tried to make it using a lighter cake. It didn’t hold the shape and I ended up chopping it up into cubes and creating a cake/fruit/cream trifle.  I referred to it as a deconstructed or conceptual lamb cake, because I took art appreciation in college.

Enough is enough, and I’ve decided that this is my year. I went to Midcentury Menu, read through all of their lamb cake recipes, and picked one (Pope Family Lamb Cake, if you’re curious). I pored over their list of lamb cake tips, because Lord knows my mother doesn’t know how anything about it. Here is my liveblog of the baking process, transcribed from my very messy handwritten notes:

* I think this is all going to rest on the right Pandora playlist. I pick Otis Redding, and dance around a bit to Bring It On Home To Me as I get the ingredients together

* Sometimes I’m kind of smug about being really good at separating eggs, which is stupid because I actually screw it up this time. In my defense, this one egg was really runny. A little yolk in the white is fine, probably?

* I always question myself when I’m supposed to beat egg yolks. How much is enough? I beat them while dancing around to I Feel Good, because this is apparently part of a cheerful montage in the film of my life.

* My ipad has egg on it now, and I wonder if I can get Salmonella. I think I could. I’m typing this up from my working notes, which simply read “mad salmonella,” so apparently my one-hour-ago self was not very optimistic about that one.

* I switch to the hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar. My standing mixer bit it recently, and today I picked up the cheapest hand mixer I could find in anticipation of Lamb Cake Day. I’m trying to quiet my doubts. Pandora has moved on to Cruisin’, which reminds me of the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Duets. I take a moment to feel for Gwyneth and her family, who are not allowed to eat lamb cakes, but are hopefully having some nice asparagus or macrobiotic sprouts for Easter.

* Whenever I have to clean out mixer blades, I’m always afraid I’ll somehow trigger the on switch and cut my fingers off. This mirrors my fear of vacuuming my own foot or garbage disposing my hand. Pandora doesn’t seem bothered, and is playing Sugar Pie Honey Bunch now.

* The mixer starts to smell of burning plastic, and Sam Cooke sings You Send Me.

* I clean my hands with what I realize is balled-up paper towel from the Lamb Cake box. It is probably about 40 to 50 years old, as is Stay Just A Little Bit Longer, which is playing now.

* I nearly empty the cupboard trying to find baking powder. The container proudly boasts that it is gluten free, making it roughly the only gluten free ingredient in this cake.

* I notice that I am cooking with organic whole milk, farm-raised cage-free eggs… and imitation vanilla. Authentic vintage baking fail. Pandora track: You Really Got A Hold On Me

* I eyeball half a cup of corn starch, worry that I’ve gotten it wrong and will ruin Lamb Cake Day, measure it, and find that it was exactly half a cup. Aretha would like a little respect when she comes home, according to Pandora.

* Where is the sifter? I can’t find one and skip that step entirely. I consult my mother, who says “we don’t sift,” as though it is a firmly-held family belief. This will probably be the cause of Easter getting ruined. Otis Redding Pandora moves on to These Arms Of Mine.

* I gingerly feel the side of the hand mixer, as though it is my feverish child. It’s hot, which is unfortunate because it is time to whip the egg whites until they are stiff. Since I don’t have grandparents to ask things of, I turn to Grandma Internet (ok, Google), which confirms that I cannot use the blender to beat egg whites. I whisk the eggs and dance around to Itty Bitty Pretty One, but do not get very far. Best to just tempt fate and use the mixer.

* I try to clean the mixer blades, but realize that I am just eating the batter off of them (it is delicious). So, I switch to another pair of whisks, only to find them clanging the whole time. I remove them when it occurs to me that they don’t go with this mixer and may come loose, fly out, and slice open my jugular.

* The mixer smells like burnt plastic. The eggs whites are stiffer than if I hadn’t done anything to them. Isn’t that enough? I switch to hand-beating the eggs until my arms hurt. This is fine, as I skipped my arm workout today. See? That’s why women in yesteryear didn’t need gyms.  I pour them in and maybe  THIS is the part where I ruin everything, because their texture is more foamy than anything.

* After Midnight Train To Georgia, Pandora goes silent and my hands are too dirty to tell it I’m still there. Great. I’ve been at this so long that Pandora has come to doubt my existence.

* I grease the heck out of the inside of the mold. I considered cooking spray, but the only kind I could find was olive oil flavored, and that sounds like a weird and incompatible taste pairing – pound cake and olive oil. The paper towel just isn’t delivering the cooking oil, so I load the Crisco onto my hand and just go for it.

I’ve clearly given up at this point, as evidenced by applying Crisco by hand and appearing on the internet post-workout with no makeup.

* Am I pouring too much batter into the mold? Possibly. I remember to put sticks into the ears and head so they don’t fall off, using bamboo skewers from the dollar store. I hope they don’t have lead in them or anything. Actually, how do I know the lamb cake mold doesn’t have lead in it? I don’t know if there was an oversight crew or anything at the cast iron factory.

* According to Grandma Internet, I ought to use twine to keep the two halves of the mold together. It doesn’t seem to be knotting that tightly, and I wish I had a Boy Scout around. Not for anything weird, I just think they know knots. A sailor would be useful too, I suppose. I think there’s a good chance that the string will bake into the cake a little. I’ll just tell my relatives that whoever finds the string gets a special wish, or since it’s Easter, is the Apostle for the Day or something.

* The internet says that some people used to put bricks on top of the mold to keep the top half from rising up, but it says it in a lighthearted “ha ha, people were crazy in olden days” way. It doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea, so I grab a brick from the garden and put it on top.

This is probably symbolic of Jesus being sealed into the tomb or something.

* This is way too heavy to carry to the oven safely (okay, I probably shouldn’t have skipped that arm workout after all). The mold alone is so heavy it could knock out a grown man, and the brick doesn’t help. I burn the top of my arm a bit putting it in the oven. At the time I blame my arm (stupid arm! Stupid, wimpy arm that doesn’t have muscle on it! What do you have so many freckles for anyway?). Later on, I blame my brain — why couldn’t I have put the brick on it once it was in there?

* In all that jostling, I wonder if the batter shifted and worry that all of the cake will end up in the lamb’s ass, as opposed to tomorrow, when I will eat it and fret that it will migrate to my ass.

* I have 55 minutes while the cake is baking, so I clean up a bit and make an open-faced sandwich. Ingredients: toasted rye bread, a half-ounce of neufchatel cheese, sliced tomato, my feelings.

* I check the cake a bunch of times, but the toothpick (okay, dollar store lead-bamboo skewer) doesn’t come out clean. Eventually I just take it out anyway because the ears are probably getting crisp.

* I take a shower while waiting for the cake to cool. I find a round brush while blow-drying my hair, and use it to curl my bangs under like I did in fifth grade, just to see if it still looks ridiculous. Still got it: I look like a 10-year-old from the late ’90s.

*  I take the back off of the cake. So far, so good. The cake looks well-proportioned, though there is a troublesome crack that I hope doesn’t spread.

See! The back of the lamb. Not awful.

* After consulting Grandma Internet, I decide to loosen the cake from the mold then leave it in there overnight. I’m a little afraid that grid marks will appear in the back if I cool it on the rack. The mold is very detailed, with hair curls and rib bones, and it would be a shame to lose that. Of course, once I frost it, that’ll all be for naught anyway.

* The next morning: I slather a ton of frosting on a serving tray so the lamb will stay upright. The lamb is not easy to frost, in case you were wondering. I use a spoon and, while I’m not positive what elbow grease is, probably that.

Canned frosting. Shhh. I’m already more ashamed of myself than you are of me.

* The lamb is bedecked with frosting and shredded coconut, with jelly bean eyes and nose, and is sitting on a bed of Easter basket grass. It makes a great centerpiece. At this point, I remember that I don’t even really LIKE pound cake very much.

Cute, right? Please ignore how the eggs are about 1/5 the size of the lamb. Or, if you prefer, pretend that they are dinosaur eggs.

* Moment of truth: the cake looks nice but taste-wise, it isn’t my favorite. It’s perfectly serviceable for what it is, and I know from experience that you need a heavy, dense cake to stay in the mold. For aesthetic and nostalgia values, this cake gets a ten out of ten. But in terms of flavor? My sister-in-law made a funfetti cake, and that is WAY more my speed.

Charley-approved! We have a winner.

* The head of the lamb is left at the end. It looks like that horse’s head in the Godfather. I would not be surprised to find this on my pillow at some point, unless I eat it all first. With me and cake — even cake that isn’t my favorite — that is quite likely.


Postlogue: This recipe makes a lot of batter, and I make cupcakes with the excess. Over the course of the week, I realize that I actually really DO like this cake. It’s not dry, which is my way of trying to avoid using the word “moist.” It’s also lightly sweet and pairs well with sliced strawberries. It’s a good cake. The disembodied lamb head is creeping me out, though.