Champagne ?????

Traditional New Year Foods for Good Luck and Wealth

By Barbara Heimlich
Source:, Thrillist, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens

New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations Around the World (including Connecticut)

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31st —New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1st. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year.

In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.  The grapes represent the 12 months within a calendar year. It is believed that the luck you’ll possess each month is dependent on the sweetness of the grapes; if you come across any tart grapes, then make sure to prepare yourself for a bumpy month that corresponds with the sour grape you consumed.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Lentils are eaten because the tiny legumes are said to look like little coins, which will bring prosperity in the coming year. From Italy, to the Czech Republic, to Brazil—whether prepared in stew, served with pork, or eaten over rice—lentils might help you pad out your bank account in the progressing months.

A major New Year’s food tradition in the American South, Hoppin’ John is a dish of pork-flavored field peas or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (as they’re the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the New Year.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.  Pigs are animals that root forward as they sniff out and eat food, and therefore emblematic of progress in the year. The fattiness of pork is also related to luxury and wealth, so don’t hesitate to fry up some bacon to start off the new year.  According to some theorists, chickens, turkeys, and lobsters, scratch backward for food, a pig buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the new year.

Cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize long life, while cabbage, and other greens symbolize money and prosperity.

Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere.  Ring-shaped cakes—sometimes with trinkets baked inside—are a symbol of coming full circle, making them a perfect New Year’s food. This tradition stems from the Greeks, who make a traditional Vasilopita for New Year’s Eve with a hidden coin baked inside.  In the South there is the Kings Cake, baked with a “baby” inside for good luck.

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

And what do we eat in Connecticut?  According to Better Homes and Gardens, a traditional New Year’s Eve Menu includes a vegetable soup, an Old Fashioned cocktail, and classic honey-glazed ham with individual creamy mashed potato pots, then finish off with a traditional apple pie!!!

Happy Holidays

Christmas is tomorrow, December 25th, Merry Christmas to all of our Christian friends. May you all have tidings and joy throughout the year.
Hanukkah ends on Monday, December 26th. Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends. May the light of the candles guide through this year.

Celebrate Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the sixth day. It was created by activist Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of West and Southeast Africa

Since it was established in 1966, Kwanzaa has been celebrated every year from December 26th through January 1st by African American families. This holiday is inspired by the start of the harvest season in Africa, and comes from the word “first” in Swahili.

Donald Harrell, an adjunct Africana Studies professor, shared with Women’s Health Magazine, that the holiday was created “with the intention of connecting with the past to prepare for the future while acknowledging culture and identity.”

According to African beliefs, as long as those who came before you are remembered and honored, they are present today.

Why Don’t the Greats Retire?

By Xavier Cromwell-McDowell
Stratford High School

Messi has finally won the World Cup, so why did he say he is not retiring from soccer?

Obviously, he is not the first athlete to do this, look at Tom Brady he retired for 40 days.  But why did he come back? I mean Tom is the greatest player in football history so why is he still trying to win championships at the age of 45?

Because, as a player he does not want to stop playing, or as my father said, “the greats never want to finally say that they are done playing the sport because they love the game and their passion is so strong that if they are still able to play and move at a high level they will.”

I mean look at Kobe the only reason he retired was because he was injured and even then he had came back and played another year or two before he finally called it quits.

So, that brings up the question when will Messi finally hang up the cleats because before the World Cup he said he would be retiring from playing with the Argentinian National team, and now after he has won he said he still has more left to play with them.

Will Messi be able to play in the 2026 world cup? I mean he will be 38-39 and soccer is not a sport where you can take breaks.  Will his body and his love of the game be able to win him another World Cup?  Because that is all Messi is playing for at this point he already established that he is the best in the world with this World Cup victory.

Certain Athletes quit because they feel bored or in the case of Barry Sanders, he retired because he didn’t have the heart to go out and get tackled every play.  Did he love the game?  Sure, but he felt that he wasn’t playing the game for himself anymore.  Or look at Jim Brown, he went to Hollywood because he was bored and at the time he was the greatest player in the NFL.

So what will Messi do?  Will he be able to break the “curse” and win another championship or World Cup before he finally hangs up the cleats for good.

“Monday Matinees 2023”

Free Monthly Screenings of Popular Films

Stratford Library
Lovell Room at high noon!
Free showings of recent, popular films shown uncut and on widescreen each month.


The Stratford Library has released their 2023 line-up for the ever-popular Monday Matinees:


January 9th

The Woman King is the true story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected their kingdom in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Viola Davis stars.   PG-13, 135 minutes


February 13th

Profoundly emotional film, the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her son, Emmett, who was brutally lynched in 1955 while visiting his cousins in Mississippi.  Special for “Black History Month”.

PG-13, 130 minutes

SHE SAID                  

March 13th

Powerful film dramatizes real-life reporters’ efforts to bring the notorious sexual predator Harvey Weinstein to justice.  Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star.  Special for “Women’s History Month”.   R, 129 minutes


April 10th

Lifelong friends Pádraic and Colm, find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. Events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences.   R, 109 minutes


May 8th

Quirky detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) returns for another wildly entertaining mystery rounded out by an outstanding ensemble cast including Ed Norton and Kate Hudson.   PG-13, 140 minutes

THE FABELMANS                  

June 12th

Part memoir, part ode to the power of the movies, Steven Spielberg’s latest film explores the family roots that helped make him a beloved filmmaker — and proves he hasn’t lost his magic touch.   PG-13, 151 minutes

For information call: 203.385.4162

The Stratford Crier would like to send tidings of joy and wonder this holiday season to our Jewish and Christian Brothers and Sisters.

Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 18th.
Christmas will be celebrated on Sunday, December 25th.

May your year be filled with the light of love.

The Stratford Crier

If You Ask Me: “Christmas in Connecticut”

Goodspeed Opera House through December 30th

Goodspeed Premieres “Christmas in Connecticut”

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Popular as a 1945 Hollywood film starring Barbara Stanwyck, “Christmas in Connecticut” has now been given the musical theatre treatment in a world premiere production at the Goodspeed Opera House. Regional theatres love having an annual “Christmas cash cow” and how many times can you offer “A Christmas Carol”? This defiantly retro musical will probably please those seeking a dose of the holiday spirit. For the rest of us, a feeling of “Bah! Humbug!” may settle in.

With a score by Jason Howland (music) and Amanda Yesnowitz (lyrics) and book by Patrick Pacheco and Erik Forrest Jackson, “Christmas in Connecticut” keeps its time period firmly in 1943-44 while making contemporary nods here and there that sometimes seem tonally odd. A joke about pit bulls, a reference to sex with sheep and the introduction of a gay relationship may stop you in your tracks among all the onstage nostalgia.

At its core is the story of an independent young Idaho girl arriving in New York City to make her mark as a writer. After much rejection, she agrees to pen a domestic column about the “perfect housewife” who lives on a farm in Connecticut. The column becomes a hit and she soon is pressed into entertaining a war hero for the holidays at her farm. Much hilarity ensues. Or not.

There was enthusiastic reaction to the musical on the night I attended, so I can’t really explain why it all seemed so synthetic and pedestrian to me. The score is mostly unmemorable but I could point to a lovely ballad, “American Dream”, sung beautifully by Josh Breckenridge as the war hero or the admirable way lead Audrey Cardwell can belt music that really does not deserve her talents.

The cast, under the able direction of Amy Anders Corcoran, is not the problem at Goodspeed (with the exception of woeful contributions by Melvin Tunstall, III and Raymond J. Lee), just the creaky vehicle they are driving. Sentimental and then daffy, broad and, at times, farcical, the book writers do not really have a handle here about the kind of holiday show they want to deliver. As a result what we get is more meh than musical!

The accomplished orchestra, under the direction of Adam Souza, is often in competition with the singers who are struggling to be heard. Herin Kaputkin’s costumes are period appropriate and she does particularly well by Cardwell’s feminist-in-the-making wardrobe. But pity poor Matt Bogart, as a socialist Connecticut farmer, forced to wear slacks that seem pulled up to his arm pits.

The New York City setting in act one is nearly as generic as the musical, but Lawrence E. Moten III’s scenic design also includes a festively decorated farmhouse that mostly works. In all, those undemanding theatregoers seeking a holiday respite will no doubt take this middling musical to their hearts.

“Christmas in Connecticut” continues at the Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main Street in East Haddam through December 30th. Masks are recommended but not required. For further information, call the box office at: 860.873.8668 or visit:

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website:

Gen Z Classic Movie Review

Ghostbusters (1984)

By Peter Mazzucco
Stratford High School

Who are you going to call when you are in trouble?  Many of us would say their mom, dad, a friend but hardly anyone would say Ghostbusters!! Dan Aykroyd had a belief in the paranormal.  His mom for one claimed to have seen ghosts. He wrote a book entitled, History of Ghosts.  He continued on to create the movie, Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters was released in June, 1984.  It was a movie of comedy, action and horror. Ghostbusters launched into a multi-million dollar franchise. This included TV shows, sequels, comic books, clothing, music and much more.

Bill Murray is a great actor in this movie. Andrew Pulver, a middle-aged male, stated that the humor in the movie is great with top of his game, Bill Murray and everyone else involved.  He wrote this review in Rotten Tomatoes. The review praised every aspect of the movie.  He quoted, “But really it’s the blizzard of college-humor smut purveyed by Murray- and occasional deadpan-nerd sallies form Ramis-that still make this such a treat, a quarter of a century on.”  One review by Janet Maslin states the negative.  It focuses more on the movie than the actual plot.

Ghostbusters is an action packed movie with a lot of neat effects such as when a transparent green-slime monster gobbles up a mouthful of hot dogs.  The plot involves an epidemic of psychic reports in Manhattan.

The actors, Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd, defrocked parapsychologists whose university experiments have been exposed, create a company named Ghostbusters and offer to speed to the rescue like a supernatural version of the Orkin man.

Besides the  story about catching scary ghosts and the possible end of the world it also has the audience laughing at the jokes. Yes, there are some inappropriate language that we would not want others to hear, especially kids but parents can have conversations with them.  This was back in the 80’s so yes, they smoked in the movie.  Again, a discussion for parents to have and mention to their children that it was the era.   Make it a family movie night and talk to the kids after the movie about other characteristics of heroes and how others can save the day.

Almost all reviews online have been positive about the movie. Some do say strong language but in this day in age, what show or video game doesn’t have it?  Some I read are opinions and not actual facts.  See the movie for yourself!  I ain’t afraid of no ghost!!

December Art in the Library

Stratford’s Ellen Thees’ Oils on Display thru December

“Still Vignettes”

An exhibit of original oil paintings by Stratford artist Ellen Thees is the current art exhibit at the Stratford Library.  The exhibit, entitled “Still Vignettes”, continues at the Library through December 2022.  It is free and open to the public. Viewing hours for “Still Vignettes” are: Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.- 8p.m.; Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday: 1-5 p.m.  The display is located in the Main Lobby of the Stratford Library and will continue through December 2022.

Ellen Thees creates big and colorful still life oil paintings.  She renders objects at least double their actual size to highlight the wonder and beauty of the everyday.  The work has a clear sense of depth with elements of abstraction and surrealism.  Thees started teaching herself oil painting in her early twenties and painted for several years before focusing on building a career and earning a degree. The more Thees played with paints, the more she learned and the more excited she became. After a concussion from a car accident left her unable to continue the highly analytical work she enjoyed, she reluctantly retired.  Ellen then began painting every day, developing her style.

Thee calls the exhibit “Still Vignettes,” because many of the works suggest little stories about the personalities and relationships of the inanimate objects. Her paintings are mostly two to three feet wide. Thees lives in Stratford with her husband of 48 years and their cat.  Her artwork has been exhibited several times at the Milford Art Council’s galleries and she will be exhibiting at the Oxford Baking Company in February.

For further information, call the library’s Public Relations and Programming Office at: 203.385-4162 or visit:

Sister Cities Chorus Correction

In the December 2nd issue of the Stratford Crier the Chorus Director for The Sister Cities Chorus was misidentified.

Christopher Andrade is the Chorus Director.  He earned his degree in Music Education from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, and has done extensive graduate study in the field of choral pedagogy through Central Connecticut State University’s Summer Music Institute. He also has a long relationship with the Sister Cities Program, having been a member of the first student delegation to Stratford, Ontario while he was a student at Stratford Academy.  In addition to his work with the Sister Cities Chorus, Chris is director of choral music and instructor in music technology at Darien High School, musical director of the Trumbull-based Coastal Mix Barbershop Chorus (formerly known as Coastal Chordsmen), and director of music at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Trumbull.  In those moments when he’s not directing some ensemble or other, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife Maggie and their three children.

The Sister Cities Concert at the Stratford Library is free and open to all.

Please bring a non-perishable item to be donated to the Sterling House Community Center Food Bank.