Posts Tagged ‘Epiphany’

Christmas in Greece

September 25, 2017

Greek-CookiesChristmas in Greece tends to be a religious celebration following the traditions and rites of the Greek Orthodox church.

Preparation for the Christmas season begins on November 15 with a solemn forty-day period of fasting and reflection.  This period called Christmas Lent lasts until Christmas Eve.  People focus on preparing spiritually for the arrival of the Christ Child.  They attend church services, confess their sins, and take Communion.  They also fast abstaining from all meats, milk products, and rich foods.

On Christmas Eve, the last day of Christmas Lent, groups of children go from house to house singing the Kalanda, Greek Christmas carols.  It is considered good luck to have children come to one’s home and sing so often coins and treats are given to the children for their songs.  The Kalanda are also sung on New Year’s Eve and the Eve of Epiphany, January 5.

Decorations in the home are simple mainly involving the home’s altar.  The altar consists of a wall cabinet or table where people stand or kneel and pray while facing the east.  Religious icons, statues or pictures of saints, and other religious items are placed in or on the altar.  The most popular icons picture Mary, Nicholas, and Basil.  In addition to these icons family altars may contain wedding crowns, a cross, a prayer book, a censer, a light or candle, and other important items related to other religious holidays like Epiphany and Palm Sunday.

Christmas trees did not appear in Greece until 1839 when King Othon I put one up in his court.  It used to be that the tree of choice was the juniper tree decorated with walnuts, almonds, dried figs wrapped in tin foil and tied to branches with string, and tiny candles (lit only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  Today Christmas trees come from Greek tree farms and are decorated with lights and tinsel and topped with a star.  Some homes put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve while others wait until New Year’s Eve.

Greeks who own boats will decorate them in honor of St. Basil’s bringing presents from Caesarea by boat on New Year’s Eve.  Children get into the act by decorating paper, tin, or wooden boats and placing them throughout the house.

On Christmas Day the Dodecameron, the 12 days, begins.  It is a joyful time of celebration that lasts from Christmas Day to Epiphany, January 6.  For many this is a time of decorating, cooking, and buying and wrapping presents.  Friends get together for parties, dances, and much fun and camaraderie.

Christmas Day is the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Many attend church services starting as early at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.

Each home enjoys a Christmas feast shared with the immediate family only.  Many families, as they gather around the table, will pause before sitting to lift the table three times in honor of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The meal starts with the breaking of the christopsomo, a Christmas bread eaten with honey.  Roast pork, chicken, or rabbit may be found on the Greek Christmas table along with many delightful cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Here are 2 recipes that one would find on many Greek Christmas tables.

Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

Author: Nicole-Cooking for Keeps

 Prep time:  45 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  1 hour

Serves: 5 dozen

These Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies) are a Greek classic. They’re buttery, crumbly, sweet, but not too sweet, and the perfect holiday treat!

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
3 teaspoons pure almond extract
8 tablespoons powdered sugar + another cup or so for coating
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
5 to 5 ½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter in the bottom of a stand mixer on a medium-high speed for 20 minutes. Add egg and almond extract, mix until combined. Sift 8 tbsp. powdered sugar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to butter and egg. Beat another 10 minutes on a medium high speed.

Sift five cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. With the speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add ½ cup more of flour.

To Form: Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough into crescents and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silt pad. There is no need to place cookies very far apart, as they do not spread much. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very pale brown and cooked through.

If serving cookies right away. Let them cool slightly and toss in powdered sugar. These will keep for 5 days. If you want to keep them for longer than five days, wait to toss in powdered sugar until just before serving.

*These can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

Recipe by Cooking for Keeps at http://www.cookingforkeeps.com/kourabiedes-greek-butter-cookies/

 Baklava

Recipe By:NEONWILLIE

“A Greek favorite that makes everyone think you are a master chef and is sooo easy to make!! I taught a Greek friend how to make apple pie and she taught me this fabulous recipe. The phyllo dough for this recipe is found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Add a little lemon zest to the sugar sauce, if desired.”

Ingredients

·         1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
·         1 pound chopped nuts
·         1 cup butter
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1 cup water
·         1 cup white sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         1/2 cup honey

Directions

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

2.       Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.

3.       Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

4.       Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

5.       Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017 Allrecipes.com
Printed From Allrecipes.com 9/17/2017

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Christmas in Italy – part 1

May 25, 2013

nativity sceneItaly enjoys a wide range of weather conditions during the Christmas season. In southern Italy Christmas is warm and sunny. In Rome, Christmas tends to be chilly and damp, almost Spring-like. In the mountain regions of northern Italy, Christmases are white with a lot of snow, ice, and cold temperatures.

Preparations for Christmas begin in December. People around Sicily also enjoy puppet shows with hand-carved puppets performing fairy tale stories and enacting legendary battle scenes. Storekeepers decorate their shops with lights and greenery. Families visit vibrant Christmas markets looking for presents, goodies, and new figures to add to the home manger scene. In the schools children put on plays, give recitals, and make decorations. People begin visiting friends and family bringing gifts, sharing good food, and visiting as many magnificent nativity displays as possible.

On December 6 many Italians celebrate the feast day of San Nicola (St. Nicholas). All along the Adriatic coast, children anxiously await the visit of the saint with his gifts and goodies he brings.

On December 13 the people of Sicily celebrate the feast day of Santa Lucia (St. Lucy). Tradition says that, on the eve of her day, Lucia travels the countryside accompanied by a donkey carrying baskets loaded with gifts for those she visits. Children leave their shoes on the doorstep along with food for the donkey. Lucia then fills the shoes with presents. On the morning of St. Lucia’s day, a child, usually the oldest daughter of the family, dresses up as Lucia and serves the family breakfast in bed.

The Christmas season really starts in Italy with Christmas Novena. This is a nine-day period of spiritual preparation ending Christmas Eve marked by attending church services.

Christmas Eve is spent with family and for making final preparations for Christmas day. They may enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas and the smells of the Christmas markets. Some Italians attend midnight Christmas Eve services at their local churches. In Cortina D’Apezzo, a town in northern Italy, families gather to watch the Alpine guides ski down the mountain carrying flaming torches.

Christmas Day arrives with the pealing of hundreds of church bells. The tradition of ringing church bells at Christmas is thought to have begun nearly 1,600 years ago by Bishop Paulinas of Nola. Families spend the day together exchanging gifts, playing games, telling stories, and feasting.

On December 26 a number of Italians celebrate St. Stephen’s Day. Once a day of religious devotion St Stephen’s Day is now spent relaxing or visiting friends and family.

As Christianity spread in Italy in times past the Christmas season was extended to January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Cities and towns host Epiphany parades, and people sing songs honoring the three kings.

The following recipe is a favorite at Christmastime in Italy.

Almond Macaroons

1 can (8 ounces) almond paste, cut in pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg whites
Pine nuts

Combine almond paste, sugar, and egg whites in a bowl and work with a spoon until smooth. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with unglazed paper. Top with pine nuts. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit about 12 minutes, or until delicately browned. Cool slightly, then remove cookies to racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Christmas in Germany

February 14, 2012

English: Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in...

Image via Wikipedia

Christmas celebrations in Germany start on November 11 with the celebration of St. Martin’s Day.  St. Martin’s Day remembers Martin, a Roman soldier, who, when riding through the countryside on a cold day, met a beggar asking for alms.  Martin had nothing on him to give but, noticing that the beggar was cold, took his cloak and cut it in two pieces and gave one piece to the beggar.  That night, after Christ appeared to him in a dream, Martin devoted his life to service to God.

On St. Martin’s Day children receive small gifts and eat treats, mainly currant buns.  They make homemade lanterns out of cardboard and transparent colored paper.  Some of these lanterns are quite intricate.  They hang the lanterns on long poles and march through town.  After the procession the people reenact the legend of St. Martin.

On November 30, St. Andrew’s Night is celebrated.  Young girls, before retiring for the night, may perform rituals to predict the identity of their future husbands.

About four weeks before Christmas, approximately December 1, many Germans observe the first Sunday of Advent.  Advent is a time of introspection and preparation looking forward to the birthday of the Christ child.  It is observed during the four Sundays before Christmas.

On St. Barbara’s Day, December 4, early budding cherry branches are cut and put in a warm place to bloom for Christmas.

Children look forward to December 6, St. Nicholas’s Day.  St. Nicholas visits all the children of Germany along with an assistant, either Black Peter or Krampus.  St. Nicholas arrives riding a white horse not a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and is a stern man not jolly.  St. Nicholas gives gifts, candy, and treats to all the good children while Black Peter or Krampus gives switches to the naughty children.

On the 13th of December children gather and parade through town singing carols.  At the end of the parade route they perform a play about the Nativity.

On December 21, St. Thomas’s Day, the air is filled with the aroma of rich fruitcakes baking.  After all the baking is finished the people gather to dance the night away.

The big Christmas celebration begins on December 23, the Eve of the Eve.  It is said that the Virgin Mary and flights of angels fly overhead bringing advanced word of the Christ child’s birth.  On Christmas Eve, December 24, the Christmas baking is done, presents are wrapped and distributed, and the Christmas tree is decorated.  Children leave lists of gifts they wish to receive on the window sills for the Christ child, the Christmas gift giver in Germany.  The main dish for supper on December 24 is carp.  Brass bands serenade passersby with Christmas carols, and people attend midnight church services.  On Christmas day Catholic and Lutheran families attend church services.  Goose is the meal of choice, and families spend time with each other.

December 26 is St. Stephen’s Day, and December 28 is Holy Innocent’s Day.  Holy Innocent’s Day remembers the slaughter of the children of the Bethlehem area by King Herod.  On that day children pretend to swat adults with switches and are placated with small presents.

Traditional foods served on December 31, New Year’s Eve, are carp, a hot spiced punch called sylvesterabend served with pfannkuchen (doughnuts), and balbauschen, a fried cake stuffed with raisins and currants.  People also attend early evening church services.

Epiphany (January 6), also known as Twelfth Night or Festival of the Three Kings, is celebrated by eating Kings cakes.  Kings cakes are baked with a bean inside.  The one who finds the bean becomes king of the feast and is allowed to give ridiculous orders to those around him or her.

The final night of the Christmas season comes on January 13 and is known as Octave of Epiphany.  Groups of four boys each march around town singing “star songs.”  One boy carries a lighted star on a pole while the others are dressed as the three kings.  Some groups carry a crib filled with good things to leave with a needy family.

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