Saturday, December 08, 2018

For the record: Christmas fish and the 2024 Eclipse

Every year around this time, my mom starts trying to remember how much fish she ordered for the previous year's Vigil Supper - a Polish tradition of a meatless feast on the evening of Christmas Eve, the start of which is signaled by the sighting of the first star in the sky. (Or planet, particularly when Venus shines bright in the Western sky after sunset.) It's a feast filled with wonderful traditions, including the ceremonial breaking and sharing of special blessed wafers called oplatki (pronounced oh-PWOT-key), which look like thin, embossed sheets of styrofoam and taste like the casings of U.F.O. (or Satellite, or Flying Saucer) candies. Some of the traditions have fallen by the wayside - the herring, the fish soup, the extra space left at the table for the stranger-who-might-be-Jesus who might show up at the door, the singing of Polish Christmas carols - but the feast still retains some of the traditional aspects, including fish (usually cod) and pierogies (potato, farmer's cheese, and cabbage. Our old fish source used to be bar / restaurant / catering service called The Alden Manor on Middle Road in Nanticoke. (Mostly. I remember one year we couldn't get it and had to fall back on Arthur Treacher's. That was probably some twenty years ago.) Unfortunately, The Alden Manor went out of business a few years ago, and since that time we have had to find other fish suppliers. Our primary source of late has been Gerrity's, a local supermarket chain.

Anyway: for the record, in 2017, our fish order was forty-five pieces, approximately eight pounds. The exact amount may vary from year to year, depending on how many people will be at the Vigil Supper, and whether leftovers are desired.

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I was reminded today that there is a total solar eclipse that will take place throughout North America in the near future. There was some excited talk about this during the eclipse of 2017, but things have changed quite a bit since then. The eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024, and be visible along a diagonal swath of the eastern half of the United States.

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC Emeritus. Go here and here for more information.
Assuming I am still in Northeastern Pennsylvania in five years and five months, the closest location along the path of totality will be in the Buffalo / Niagara Falls area. It looks like totality will happen there around 19:25 UTC. Assuming Daylight Saving Time is in effect,this should be 15:25 EDT, or 3:25 in the afternoon - I expect the exact times will be published as the event draws nearer. A friend made a striking video of the eclipse of 2017, not by aiming her camera at the eclipsed Sun, which is tricky at best and dangerous at worst, but by capturing the surrounding landscape as the shadow bands rolled in and out. I have never actually witnessed a total solar eclipse from along the path of totality. Will I have such an opportunity on Monday, April 8, 2024?

SIDE NOTE: When trying to get more information about this event from a site belonging to the U.S. Navy, I am confronted with this message:

Has the U.S. Navy allowed its certificates to expire?

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