A global flavour: food and festivities

Christmas may very well be the most universally recognized holiday in the world.
However, there are many other significant religions and cultures that hold sacred celebrations around the month of December.

According to Statistics Canada, non-Christian beliefs have grown significantly over the past three decades as immigration has shifted from European settlers to Asian and Middle Eastern migrants.

With this increase in population movement comes an increased opportunity to learn from another culture’s traditions and rituals, as each group deserves to have their own holiday recognized.

According to Michel Desjardins, chair of Laurier’s global studies department, all holidays and celebrations are about “coming together.” In spite of opposing traditions and belief systems, good food and family is something that remains constant.

“All the festivals are connected to food,” said Desjardins. The ingredients may change between varying religions but there is always an appetite around the holiday season, no matter what religion you practice.

Hanukkah’s feast is referred to as “Feast of Dedication” or “Feast of Lights,” Laurier student Keera Bronstine states. Hanukkah is an eight-day festival, which celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

“There is a miraculous amount of oil used in the meals during the holiday,” said Desjardins, explaining that many of the feasts consist of doughnuts and potato pancakes which have been baked in oil. Overall, the holiday of Hanukkah is about warm comfort food and happiness.

Desjardins also mentioned an important and enlightening religion named Zoroastrianism. The root of this belief comes from Iran but shifts to India over time.

Toronto is home to one of the largest Zoroastrian populations in the world, a religion that expresses the celebration and respect for animals. Animal food is used for sacred feasts, festivals or in funeral collations. Some African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, which means, “first fruits and is established on American festivals,” said Desjardins. For seven days, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, African-
Americans acknowledge essential principles on community and family life.

This sacred celebration also incorporates traditional foods into a central role. For seven days, these “individuals focus on good qualities such as how to be a good person,” Desjardins said. Basically, it’s a “feast week where they eat food and drink a lot,” according to Desjardins.

Finally, an interesting twist to Christianity is Coptic Christianity, mostly celebrated in Egypt, where Christmas is a very significant holiday. Traditional Egyptian Christians are referred to as Copts.

While discussing a personal journey to Egypt, Desjardins expressed that “Coptic Christianity is about being joyous and to think about what is truly important to your life in a serious matter.”

All Coptics have to endure a period of fasting before a big feast. During this fasting period, the Coptics may eat a vegetarian diet that may include fish, since fish species do not have intercourse.

This enables the community to reduce their overall food consumption. Meanwhile, when Christmas day arrives, celebrations consist of a “huge amount of meat eating,” stated Desjardins.

Overall, each holiday provides an exuberating and culturally rich experience. Opposing religions may have vast differences themselves but overall everyone loves to eat and celebrate with their family and friends after a long year.

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