December 13, 2012

Día de Santo Tomás

St. Thomas day, St. Thomas gray,
The longest night and shortest day.

The Feast Day of Saint Thomas the Apostle was traditionally celebrated on December 21, the Winter Solstice. In Central America, the Fiesta de Santo Tomás is celebrated much as they do in Europe, with the ringing of hand bells, fireworks and parades.¹ Additionally an adaptation of the ancient Mayan flying pole dance, Danza de los Voladores, is also performed.

The highlight of Danza de los Voladores is when five performers dressed as «bird men» scale a 100′ pole roped at their hands or ankles. Once at the top, the main dancer stands on the pole playing a flute. Representing the recreation of the world,² the pole is spun around unraveling the ropes on each turn, lowering the four other «bird men» to the ground.

This year, December 21st marks the conclusion and resetting of a b’ak’tun—a time period in the Mayan Long Count calendar which was used in Central America prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Glad tidings and 20 more happy k’atuns,
Jennifer & David


Bird [of choice] with Guatemalan Pulique Sauce

¼ cup masa harina flour
2 tablespoons water
6 tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
6 large fresh tomatillos, husks removed
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 onion, cut into chunks
3 dried guajillo chile peppers, stems and seeds removed
1 piece cinnamon stick, one inch
6 whole cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
2 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons dried epazote
2 teaspoons achiote seed
5 cups chicken broth
¼ cup olive oil
salt to taste

1 pound [chicken] thighs
3 zucchini, thickly sliced
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
2 carrots, sliced
5 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt

Mix the masa harina with water in a small bowl, and let stand until the corn flour has absorbed the water and made a pliable dough. Form into a 2 inch ball. Place the dough ball and all ingredients—but the olive oil—into the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the cinnamon stick. Strain liquid from vegetables and dough ball, place into a blender and mix until mostly smooth. Strain the sauce and set it aside. Retain about ½ cup of broth.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and slowly pour the sauce into the hot oil, letting it fry and bubble until it starts to change color. Season with salt to taste. Serve over roasted bird of choice.


¹ In Europe it was also widley followed that if a single woman on St. Thomas Day could pick a young rooster from a brood of sleeping chicks, she would soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams… 

² In Maya mythology the creation, and re-creation, of the world is associated with Itzamna, a mythical bird deity residing in the center of the world at the World Tree known as Wacah chan or Yax imix che. 

Apostle St Thomas, c1630, Jusepe Martínez (1600–1682), 
Oil on canvas, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts 

Recipe adapted from