Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bread-and-Milk Buying as Introductory Rite

One of the quirks of North Carolina culture that transplanted northerners like me puzzle over is the frenetic buying of white bread and milk whenever even the slightest accumulation of winter precipitation is predicted.

We Yankees usually use this activity as an opportunity to glory in our superior, northern winter-driving skills and to laugh at the locals' ignorance of real winter weather like we have Up North. Re-tellings of our favorite northeastern / midwestern / rocky mountain blizzard stories usually ensue.

But I've recently come to the conclusion that both northerers and southerners misunderstand the ritual of bread-and-milk buying. It isn't about bread and milk. It is actually a ritual.

Snow days are a special kind of holiday that is openly loved by children and secretly loved by adults. Snow days are constituted of a kind of time that is different either from work time or from scheduled leisure. Snow days are movable feasts which entail distinct activities, such as the daytime watching of movies, making hot chocolate, sledding, or just walking outdoors. Snow days are sacred in the sense of "dedicated, set apart, exclusively appropriated to some special purpose" (Oxford English Dictionary).

No one ever really runs out of bread and milk on snow days, since the stores never close and the roads are almost always passable. The real function of buying bread and milk is to ritually mark our entrance into the sacred time of the Snow Day. It's like the ritual ablution Catholics do when entering a church, or the processional rite at the beginning of a liturgy.

They're predicting snow and freezing rain for tonight. I'm heading to the store. Dies hiemis adsit.

Update: Hoggard complains that I should translate my Latin. "Let the snow day come."

4 comments:

Lenslinger said...

My camera and I once sparked a damn near riot in a discount breadstore on Holden, hours before a civilization-threatening half inch glaze fell from the sky. Gotta love it!

D. Hoggard said...

Well, it took you long enough to figure that out. You could have just asked. Speaking of asking...

I like the looks of Latin as much as the next guy but I haven't a clue what much of it means save for the occasional 'e pluribus unum' or 'carpe diem'.

Please add a translation to any of your future Latin quips so that I might get the entire message of your most excellent posts. I might also fire back a little latin loopy loo if you will let me in on what some of it means.

Anonymous said...

For me, the ritual is buying the fixings for Coconut Creme Pie.

And despite living in Nebraska and learning how to drive in the snow, I like to stay in at the first sign of a flake.

jw

Billy Jones said...

You just had to go and tell everyone our secrets, didn't you? ;-)