Feasts in Different Countries and Cultures
Feasts have long been associated with religious and cultural celebrations. The eating of certain foods to mark a particular occasion is a way to bring ceremony and to create or maintain rituals. There will often be a series of traditional dishes and ingredients associated with particular celebrations and then each family will make their own little adaptations to make the festivities their own.
Rituals and celebrations are a wonderful way to forge a sense of family, belonging and respect for our heritage and, as such, the importance of attending and participating is often as much as the dishes themselves.Most feasts are connected to a certain time of year, with the associated foods often seasonal and luxurious.
ChristmasThe celebration of Christmas is especially popular with the Christian 33% of the world's population. It is a time for gift giving and decorating the home, too, although the 'Christmas Dinner' plays a major part in the festivities. This meal is eaten in the early afternoon of the 25th of December, a public holiday. It consists of a large roasted bird and a number of 'trimmings' which vary from home to home, although there are a number of popular choices.
The roast bird is traditionally a turkey, although goose, duck and chicken are also popular. The trimmings usually include roasted potatoes, stuffing and a number of vegetables, often more elaborately prepared than during the rest of the year. The savoury course is followed by a Christmas pudding - a rich fruit pudding, often containing alcohol and sometimes served alight.
PassoverAround 0.23% of the worlds population is Jewish and they enjoy the Passover festival, which commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel, when Moses led them from Egypt. The Passover festival is one of the most important in the Jewish calendar and the feast enjoys a number of symbolic ingredients. The meal consists of a meat bone or chicken neck, a roasted egg, bitter herbs, green vegetables to be dipped in salt water and a paste of chopped apples, walnuts and wine, called Charoset.
ThanksgivingIn America, the importance of Thanksgiving cannot be underestimated. It occurs on the fourth Thursday in November. The feast on this day is nearly as important as everyone being at home with their families. It is a time when everyone tries to get home. There is no commercialism, present giving or decorating the home associated with Thanksgiving - it is all about family and food!
The Thanksgiving meal has a number of traditional components, with some regional variation. Most people have a roast turkey, which is not any more important than the side dishes. These are often quite sweet. All in all it is a very rich meal, so it is also a key part of the celebrations to relax on the sofa after the meal and watch a football game on television.
The side dishes usually include some baked sweet potatoes, or yams. These are served 'candied', which can be done either by topping the gratin with marshmallows, brown sugar or maple syrup. Cranberries are also a key part of the meal, they are usually made into some sort of sauce or relish.
Dressing is also popular in America, which in the UK is called stuffing. This is where the most regional variations occur, with ingredients in the dressing including rice, sausage, herbs or cornbread. The last important element of the meal is pie - usually pumpkin pie, although peach, apple and pecan are also popular.