With the holiday season quickly approaching, one thing of things that has been on my mind is food. Usually around this time of year I start preparing to bake and cook an assortment of foods and desserts, but this year is a little different. A year ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, basically meaning I have an intolerance for wheat, barley, and rye, so this year I am on the hunt to find gluten-free replacements for all of my favorite seasonal treats.
As I have been searching for gluten-free treats, I began to think about Muslim and Jewish holidays and what kind of food other people prepare to celebrate their favorite holidays. I thought it would be interesting to share traditions and maybe even recipes so that we can all share in the holidays together and get a taste of each other’s cultures. I’d like to share some of my holiday favorites and hear from everyone who reads this post about their favorite holiday treats. In opinion, food is one of the best ways to bring people together.
For me, the holidays start with Halloween. For those of you who don’t know, Halloween has origins that date all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. They believe that the spirits of the dead returned to Earth to cause havoc. It was adopted by the Catholic Church and renamed it All-Hallows Eve. People dressed as saints, angels, and demons to honor those who died for their faith. Today most people do not recognize the religious attributes, it is simply a time for fun. Children dress in costumes and go door to door for candy and people throw parties. Around this time I start baking assorted pies, breads, and sometimes I even make my own candy. My two number favorite treats are pumpkin bread, sweet potato pie, and maple sugar candy leaves. Another treat that I have made is pan de meurto, or the bread of the dead. This is specific to the Mexican tradition of the Day of Dead, which combines Catholic and Native American traditions. I grew up around a lot of Mexicans and was exposed to these traditions as a child.
- Pumpkin Bread
- Sweet Potato Pie
I also add one teaspoon of all spice and one half teaspoon of pumpkin spice. I sprinkle cinnamon on the top before I bake it.
- Maple Sugar Candy
I just use a leaf-shaped mold.
- Pan de Meurto
In Lebanon, as well as in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, there is a similar Christian-based holiday called Eid al Berbara in December. This holiday is in memory of Saint Barbara, a young girl who disguised herself to escape the persecution of the Romans. Just like in the American tradition of Halloween, children dress up and go trick or treating. During this holiday it is tradition to eat desserts that are rich in wheat because Saint Barbara hide in the wheat fields while she was escaping. While Berbara is a Christian based holiday, many Muslims also celebrate it. There are desserts for this occasion including Qatayef, Maacroun, and Kameh.
- A sweet pancake stuffed with nuts or cream
What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Please feel free to include recipes.