People often ask me, “How do Mennonites celebrate New Year’s Eve”?
Not really. I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that. But they should – because I have an answer waiting. Can you guess? That’s right. The answer is: It depends.
Apparently, my ancestors in Russia celebrated New Year’s Eve along with their Ukrainian neighbours with pranks and strange rituals involving grain and presents. As far as I can tell, we left these traditions behind when we emigrated.
Please don’t throw buckwheat on my floor if you visit on the 31st.
The only tradition I remember from my youth was the production of portzelky, a deep-fat fried dough ball with raisins, rolled in sugar and eaten hot. But these were often made on New Year’s Day rather than New Year’s Eve. In case anyone felt like eating fatty, fruity dough at the end of the holiday season.
Without any traditions of our own for the evening before New Year’s Day, we tended to improvise and pick up the traditions of the people around us. Most painfully, we sometimes took on the tradition of the New Year’s Quiz. You know – one of those quizzes that the major national newspapers put together on an annual basis to torture the populace.
Mennonites, of course, are particularly disadvantaged on these quizzes because the quizzes tend to avoid those pieces of news we care about the most. You would be hard pressed, for instance, to find a New Year’s Quiz that asks about the year’s Church schisms, MCC relief sales, or trends in potluck menus.
Coming to the rescue of Mennonite New Year’s Eve parties everywhere (in North America), I have prepared a little year-end quiz for those of us living in the Mennolands. You can download it or print it off here.
I have restricted this quiz to stories from North America. Mennonites around the world have significant news stories, some of them being life and death stories. This is a party game, however, and including stories about beatings in Vietnam and/or the long term trauma experienced by the families of kidnapped girls in Nigeria just didn’t feel respectful. If I lived there, perhaps I could turn my dark sense of humour to laughing at the personal and political difficulties of Mennonite life in the Global South. But I don’t. If there’s an amateur humorist out there, consider this your call to take on the task.
The quiz dwells upon some stories we have considered serious and some that even we consider silly. There are only 30 questions, which means you can still call it an early night (as is our wont). Every single question is bona fide Mennonite trivia drawn from some of the top stories in the Mennonite news and social media of 2015.
The last page includes the answer guide. Tally up your score and have a drink to celebrate your arcane knowledge (or lack of it). Here’s how to interpret your score:
0-10 answers correct: You’re not really a Mennonite, are you? That’s ok. We have respect for people of other faiths, too. Honest.
11-20 answers correct: You’ve clearly been following the Mennonews. I expect we’re related. What’s your last name? And what about your mother’s last name? Sorry – which immigration wave? And would your family have been General Conference or Mennonite Brethren or…?
21-30 correct: Wow, really? You’re such a Menno-Newshound, you have all the makings of a Mennostalker. It’s a little scary. I mean, that’s great that you follow the Mennoworld so ardently and all but I’m not sure that much interest is really healthy. I suggest you take corrective action ASAP. Have a drink, at least.
The New Year’s cocktail for 2015 is called The Privilegium for reasons which should be apparent if you’ve got to the end of the quiz. A drink for the privileged and for New Year’s Eve, it’s a sparkling wine cocktail with a splash of Cassis like the kir royale and another splash of brandy in recognition of the Prussian brandy-distillers.
- 1/3 ounce Cassis
- 1/3 ounce brandy
- 4 ounce sparkling wine (brut)
Stir the Cassis and the brandy in the bottom of a Champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling wine. Drink and consider yourself fortunate and a clever negotiator. Who cares about quizzes?