8 Feasts Celebrated Around the World
It's the Friday after Thanksgiving, and you are probably still stuffed. Whether you're back in the office, enjoying the extended weekend, or out waiting in a line to start your holiday shopping, you are probably still splitting at the seams with good ol' traditional Thanksgiving food. MMMM-MMMM! And your fridge is probably full of enough leftovers to feed an entire army. You'll be eating festive leftovers (festovers) until you never want to look at breaded dressing ever again. I bet you're probably not wondering about what kinds of other feasts bring people together--but I am! So set your insides to "digest" mode and settle in. Today we're gonna learning blog (yes, I verbed it) about other feast holidays from countries and cultures around the world.
Luckily for my brain and stomach, I am writing this a few days before Thanksgiving, and am still in a mindset where I'm really excited about food. So much so that I will be including descriptions of traditional foods and links to some recipes for the dishes at these celebratory feasts. Let's dig in!
8. Eid Al-Fitr:
When the month long period of the day-fasting of Ramadan ends, and Shawwal begins on the lunar calendar (this year Shawwal began for the western world on July 18th), observing Muslims around the world begin the three day celebration of Eid Al-Fitr; or "breaking the fast feast." It is also called Sweet Eid, or "Sweet Feast," because of all of the sugary candy and pastries consumed. Lebanese style Baklava--a layered crispy, flaky, sweet dessert filled with crushed sweetened and spiced walnuts and pistachios--is a traditional favorite, and here is a traditional recipe with a warm family anecdote from the Rosewater and Orange Blossoms blog about Lebanese recipes.
The feasting of Eid Al-Fitr focuses mostly on sweet dishes, such as Chomchom, a sweet creamy dessert coated in coconut flakes; Barfi, a type of sweet white fudge made from condensed milk and sugar; and Sheer Khurma, a sweet breakfast pasta made by cooking pasta and dates separately in milk.
Purim is a Jewish religious holiday celebrating the foiling of the jealous plot by Haman the evil to convince King Ahasuerus of ancient Persia to order the killing of all of the Jews in his land. Why would he want to do that? The king bestowed Haman with high honors and ordered his men to bow and show obedience to Haman. Mordecai did not bow, and since Mordecai was Jewish, Haman wanted all of the Jews in his king's land eliminated. No wonder his downfall is celebrated! His plan was stopped by Ahasuerus's wife Esther, who was also Jewish and obviously wasn't on board with being a victim of genocide.
So now, every year on the 15th day of Adar (there's the lunar calendar again, this year Purim fell on the sunset of March 4th) Jewish people worldwide celebrate by exchanging small gifts, donating to charity, and eating delicious food. Special Challah breads are prepared for Purim feasts. Some use eggs to represent Haman's eyes, or Haman himself. Hamantaschen is another treat, they are triangular cookies that represent Haman's ears (which were cut off before he was executed) or his three cornered hat.
6. Chuseok in Korea:
Chuseok, sometimes referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving, is a Korean harvest celebration that takes place in Autumn, on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It is a holiday not only about the ripe autumn harvest, but also about honoring family ancestors and time spent with family. Chuseok is celebrated by gathering with family, and visiting the graves of family ancestors to clear them of any weeds or debris and leave offerings of food and alcohol. Chuseok also features a big meal eaten with family and traditional dishes.
Foods eaten for Chuseok include japchae, made of sweet potato noodles and stir fried vegetables, sometimes served with rice or beef; bulgogi, which is marinated meat, usually beef; and hangwa, which are sweet treats made of natural ingredients such as rice flour, fruit, edible roots, and honey. Typically, the most anticipated food of Chuseok is songpeyon. Songpeyon is rice cakes filled with assortments of sesame seeds, mung beans, cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, and jujubes. They are steamed with pine needles for specific and significant flavor. It is said that the prettier one can make their songpeyon, the prettier their future spouse or future daughter will be.
5. Midsummer's Eve in Sweden:
In Sweden, the festivities of Midsummer's eve are lighthearted celebration to ring in the summer holiday. Long, long ago, Midsummer was celebrated by pre-christian pagans as a summer solstice celebration, focusing on fertility. Today, the maypole is still raised and danced around. In its modern setting, the holiday is focused on spending time with family and friends out in the countryside enjoying nature, but also on the hopes of finding new love.
Between picking flowers, making garlands, drinking, chatting with friends and dancing, people celebrating Midsummer's eve are likely to be chowing down on herring, boiled new potatoes with dill and sour cream, grilled kebabs, and strawberry cake.
4. Triodion in Greece:
Triodion, also referred to as Apokries or Carnival (these festivities are similar to Carnival from Brazil, although they go on for much longer), sounds like the mother of all feasting holidays. Triodion refers to an entire three weeks of celebration. What are we celebrating? Being able to eat delicious food before abstaining from such rich fare for Lenten fasting, of course! This holiday also has pre-christian pagan roots, and used to be a celebration of Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine (and partying, and stuffing your face). The three week period takes place on the three weeks before Easter.
The first week is called Profoni, and is a week focused on preparing farm animals for slaughter so they can become delicious nomage for the celebrations. The next two weeks, called Kreatini and Tyrini, are the ones that heavily center on enjoying foods that are traditionally given up for Lent. Kreatini focuses on meat dishes such as souvlaki, lamb skewers; tavva, baked lamb with vegetables; and a pork stew called afelia. In the mood for some delicious lamb now? Here (and pictured above) is a decently simple recipe for lamb shanks from a Greek food blog called Dimitra's Dishes. Tyrini, the last week before Lent begins, is a week focused on the consumption of dairy and cheese. By this point, most people have already given up meat. Cheesy pastas, cheese stuffed raviolis, cheesy breads, and savory and sweet cheese pastries are the typical foods eaten in celebration of Tyrini.
3. Mardi Gras:
Mardi Gras is also a pre-Lenten feasting festival. Mardi Gras translates to "Fat Tuesday," and the celebration is all about fitting in as much gluttony, sloth and even lust as one can before Lent begins. It is celebrated as a pre-Lenten festival in many parts of the world, from Canada all the way to Austrailia but New Orleans, Louisiana is the crown jewel of Mardi Gras festivities.
Typically, New Orleans Mardi Gras is spent partying in the streets of the French Quarter, watching parades, drinking, and enjoying music and festival food from street vendors and bars. The poster food for Mardi Gras is king cakes. These are typically a rolled or braided pastry cake with a hollow spot in the middle which contains a small plastic baby to represent Jesus. They are glazed and then dusted with sugar crystals in the colors purple gold and green, traditional Mardi Gras colors.
2. Oktoberfest in Germany:
Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, that celebrates beer in all of its glory. The festival is very popular and annually hosts around 6 million guests. Fun fact, Texas is full of mock Oktoberfests; apparently we're big on beer here too. Oktoberfest attendees will find themselves in a sea of people enjoying beer by the pint, riding festival rides, playing carnival games, dancing, listening to music, hitting up beer tents for special brews, and enjoying a smorgasbord of traditional German foods.
Festival food at Oktoberfest includes roast chicken and pork, grilled ham hocks, various types of wurst and brats, huge fluffy bread pretzels, grilled fish, potato dumplings, cheese noodles, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, obatzda which is a spicy cheese and butter sauce, and Bavarian wiesswurst. Wiesswurst is a white sausage made with veal and bacon and flavored with various spices.
1. The Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand:
Probably the most outlandish feast festival, the Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand is less centered on people feasting, and more about the monkeys. That's right. The food is for the Macaque monkeys that live freely in Lopburi, under protected status, associated with the monkey god Hanuman.
This festival was created in 1989 to bring more tourists and tourist revenue to Thailand. The people of Lopburi put food out for the monkeys on a daily basis, but when the festival rolls around, the variety of fruits and veggies and drinks put out for the monkeys to choose from is increased on a grand scale. People are not discouraged from digging in with the monkeys, but neither are the monkeys discouraged from climbing people to take any food they may be trying to eat right out of their hands--or mouths. Food in the buffet spreads is a large range of raw fruits and vegetables such as kiwis, pineapples, corn, apples, oranges, pumpkin, plumbs, bananas, dragonfruit, lettuce, carrots, cantaloupe, etc. They are also presented with various drinks and bottles of water.