Fruits and Vegetables Steeped in Holiday Traditions
With the holiday season already upon us, we thought we’d share some traditional celebrations from around the world that include fruit and vegetables. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as the head of the Jewish year signifying the birthday of the universe. Ceremonies of lighting candles in the evenings and sharing meals with sweet delicacies during the night and day mark this holiday.
Challah bread traditionally baked into round loaves, and often sprinkled with raisins, is dipped into honey instead of salt, expressing our wish for a sweet year. Furthering the sweet theme, it is traditional to begin the meal on the first night with slices of apple dipped in honey. On the second night of the holiday, apples are not eaten, however, before breaking bread (and dipping it in honey), a “new fruit,” something that has not been tasted since the last time it was in season, is eaten.
In many Jewish communities, there are additional traditional foods eaten, each symbolizing a wish for the coming year. Many eat pomegranates, giving voice to a wish that “our merits be many like the [seeds of the] pomegranate.” Another common food is tzimmes, a sweet carrot-based dish which symbolizes a wish for a year of abundance.
Hannakah, or The Festival of Lights, is another tradition deeply rooted in partaking of symbolic foods. This Jewish holiday is a celebration of a miracle related in the Old Testament which describes one night's worth of oil that lasted 8 nights. Thus, it is celebrated with foods fried in oil. One of the most popular being latkes, a potato cake fried in oil until it is golden and crispy.
A long-standing English Christmas time treat is the minced meat pie. The delicious filling used in this traditional offering contains apples and a variety of dried fruits including raisins. And we would be remiss if we did not include the Christmas fruitcake, the fodder of many Christmas jokes. Taking the fruitcake a step or two further by dousing it with alcohol (most commonly brandy or whiskey) then steamed and the beloved Christmas pudding is created. In Lithuania, the Christmas meals consist of 12 dishes symbolizing the Apostles. As part of their holiday fast no meat, eggs or dairy are consumed. Among dishes served are herring with carrots and mushrooms and cabbage filled dumplings. These dishes are also popular in Poland and the Ukraine. Other common meals consumed on the Eve of Christmas in Poland are traditionally meatless and includes other staples like beet soup and boiled potatoes. In the Ukraine, members of the Ukranian Orthodox Church adhere to a strict diet devoid of sugars, fats or meats. Holiday dinners include Kutya, which is honey-based and contains wheat, poppy seeds, and nuts. More contemporary twists on this traditional offering contain the addition of dried or fresh fruits.
In Venezuela, the labor-intensive Hallaca is a favorite served at Christmas. Corn dough, a mixture of meats, and raisins and olives are wrapped and tied in plantain leaves and then steamed.
New Year’s Eve in Italy, known as La Festa De San Sylvestro, among the foods eaten at the feast is a big pot of lentils. Legumes are thought to represent wealth and prosperity. This dish is widely consumed to bring wealth and success in the coming year.
The New Year, or Soll, is a time of celebration in Korea and many other Asian countries that follow the Chinese calendar. Although a popular item eaten year round, Kimchi, which is traditionally made with cabbage, is a must during this holiday feast.
Regardless of where you are from and how you mark your celebrated holidays, produce has a very deep rooted symbolic history throughout the world. What are some of your holiday meals containing fruit or vegetables?