Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ancient roots for a modern celebration? Honoring National Ice Cream Day!

Preserving the Ice Cream traditions of an early people
National Ice Cream Day is the year's spiritual apogee for my people. The year’s sins are washed away by creamy soft serve swirl, a balm to our souls as we prepare for Holy Sundae, the third one of July

This family celebration follows a month of determined preparation. Children enjoy the ritual, Find the Wafer Cone--it's a way to prepare for the High Holy Day's adult responsibilities. Mothers and fathers offer a traditional responsive reading, “Hot Fudge or Butterscotch”. This moving recitative celebrates the oneness of all toppings.

Ice Cream anthropologists tell us that the holiday's roots date back to the ancient Celts, circa 800 B.C. Excavations of a two-thousand year old Mr. Softee shrine provides a rare glimpse into how the holiday was celebrated in its earliest form. Cave drawings--remarkably preserved for two milenia--depict temple priests. They were stiffly garbed in white attire with a band of black cloth that resembles a modern necktie. Many of the cave drawings show the attendants with a round white snap brim cap. The meaning of their vestal garments is yet uncertain but suggest purity or possibly vanilla. 

That the ancients could maintain a frozen custard in the July heat puzzles scientists today who have been unable to recreate the ancients' recipe. Working from fossils and fragments, the excavation team was able to recreate a device that turns out to be remarkably similar to today's ice cream scoop. It is almost certain that the scoop was used to dispense the ceremonial ice cream dessert. 

Early Celtic Ice Cream Deity?
That this rite anticipates the Passover Seder of the Jewish tradition is a theory that is hotly debated by archaeologists today. Other scholars speculate that the 'tester spoon', a small device for sampling just a mouthful parallels the Christian communion ritual. Certainly, the communion wafer and the Celtic cone share a common heritage. But to suggest a connection between the cone and topping of the Celtic tradition and the blood and body of the communion ritual strikes some scholars as unlikely. For now, this eerie correspondence will likely remain a mystery, awaiting a Rosetta Stone like decoder, before we can pronounce the universality of Ice Cream with certainty.

Some accounts of the Ice Cream ritual include mention of self-flagellation with the leaves of the now extinct Irish Banana tree. Each tribe had a  moyel--thought to be a tree trimmer or similar--who begins the festivaly when he utters the Lepontic words, "Tá mo bhríste trí thine" which translates loosely to, "My trousers are on fire"  The congregation chants a responsive interchange, "Pero la carraterra es verde," or 'but the highway is green.' 

(The exact route by which the Spanish phrase worked its way across the North Sea to Ireland is still a mystery. Proponents of the Universal Appearance school of ice cream development point to this inexplicable phenomenon as evidence that ice cream worship sprang up independently in places as diverse as Leitrim Ireland to Hoboken NJ (the site of a complete Teaneck Man skeleton that shows the distinctive forearm development of a scooper).
The fate of the Celtic
Ice Cream Cults?
Topping masters show their craft

Today’s National Ice Cream Day festivities include the Parade of Begging Dogs. While today's celebrants regard begging canines as a cheerful nod to the past, it should be noted that some the earliest Ice Cream cults died out, possibly the result of having bred ice cream loving giant Irish Wolfhounds to excess. Sic transit gloria glacies cramum.

However you celebrate National Ice Cream Day, please, allow me to extend the fullness of my heart and belly in friendship. May your hot fudge pot never become congealed, may your whipped cream dispenser always have spare whippets.

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