One year into the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel, we just don’t know how long that tunnel is! We’ve all missed so many holidays and family occasions and want to plan join in whatever is happening when restrictions are eventually lifted.
Although the current law on lockdown could potentially be extended until the end of March, by the Prime Minister’s reckoning vaccination could allow some easing by half term (15 to 19 February for most schools in England and Wales, a week earlier in Scotland). So, we could see some limited fun with friends by spring – but life certainly won’t be back to normal. There will no ‘big bang’ end to this as some people wait many months for their turn in the vaccination queue.
We looked at traditional holidays and events that might be candidates for celebrating our gradual return to a more social lifestyle. It’s too early to pin your hopes on any of them for meeting up with family and friends, but we did notice that they all seem to involve a lot of feasting on traditional foods. So why not eat, drink, and make merry regardless? Even if the tier system keeps you apart from your loved ones, why not enjoy a culinary treat?
So, what’s ahead? We’re quietly hoping for a new normal by midsummer, so we only go that far for now
We will miss out on the riotous fun and splendour of Chinese New Year on 12 February, and all the fabulous food and celebrations that can follow for days or weeks after. It will be the start of a year of the hardworking and methodical ox. The yin (inward) energy specific to the Chinese zodiac sign of Ox suggests a year when it is necessary to double our efforts to accomplish anything at all. Of course, you might think that we are more than match fit for that challenge after what we’ve been through already.
While we won’t be out watching the lion and dragon dances or the fireworks, we can enjoy a traditional Chinese New Year meal. There are some fabulous ideas to be found on the internet. (1)
Don’t expect the wild abandon of the Mardi Gras carnivals in February either this year. The famous Rio Carnival has been postponed until at least in July. Mardi Gras is also a big thing in the US, where it is most famously celebrated in New Orleans with great Cajun food. Favourite dishes for the occasion are gumbo (soup), crawfish etouffee (stew) and jambalaya (a spicy rice dish).
Of course don’t forget the British tradition of Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, which literally translates as Fat Tuesday, the day of last extravagant meal before Ash Wednesday and Lent! There are many variations on the theme, but we don’t think you can beat the basic recipe (there’s a link at the end of the article) (3) for this special night.
St David, the only native-born patron saint of the British Isles, is believed to have lived on only leeks and water. His countrymen today celebrate his feast day on 1st March with far more indulgence. Traditional Welsh foods ranging from cawl stews and soups to rarebits and classic Welsh cakes and bara brith, bread packed with dried fruits.
Passover, the week-long Jewish celebration of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt, and the sparing of the firstborn of the Israelites begins on 28 March. Family meals are at the heart of Passover, especially the first night. During Passover, grains, shellfish and pork are off the menu, but there are still plenty of wonderful dishes to enjoy. Why not earh online for recipes and sample some of them?
Easter is celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal (Spring) equinox, when the sun gives us equal hours of day and night. As the solar and lunar calendars are different the actual date of Easter changes, but it is always on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. This year it’s April 4 – relatively early, so we may be subject to restrictions on socializing.
Easter meals are different all across the world, ranging from sweet desserts to savoury soups. Here in the UK marzipan-rick simnel cake was originally eaten bit we suspect that more Brits follow the more savoury French tradition on eating lamb, a sacrificial animal, at Easter. Why not try the particular Easter recipe for leg of lamb known as “le gigot d’agneau Pascal.”? The meat is simply seasoned with garlic and herbs such as rosemary, and then roasted. Delicious!
Made with cottage cheese and cream cheese, pashka is a savory dessert popular across Eastern Europe that can either be eaten alone or with bread. The cheese mound is often decorated with dried fruit and the letters XB, which mean “Christ is risen.” Or why not try the Spanish Tarta Pascualina, literally Eastertime Tart. The delicious pie is filled with ricotta, hard boiled eggs, spinach, artichoke, and parsley. Since it is meatless, it’s also a common dish during Lent.
April will also see the beginning of Ramadan. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so the Holy month of Ramadan also falls on different dates each year. This year’s dates are April 12 to 11 May. Muslims abstain from food or drink each day from sunrise (fajr) until sunset (maghrib) but during the hours of darkness popular foods to break the fast include lentil dumplings in a spicy yogurt sauce, slow cooked stews, kebabs, filo pastry with cheese, vegetables and meat wrapped in chapatis and delicious fruit desserts made with palm sugar. Even if you are not observing Ramadan, Why not experiment with a new style of cooking?
May Day is a traditional holiday in many European cultures with dancing, singing, and cake usually part of the festivities. Its roots are in the Dark Ages as Beltane one of the four major Celtic festivals. The ‘fire of Bel’ represented the first day of summer and was celebrated with bonfires to welcome in the new season.
It marked the end of winter’s subsistence diet of salted meats and dried produce and berries, herbs, and fresh greens form natures’ rekindled generosity are at the heart of its feast. A special oatcake or bannock made from eggs, milk, and oatmeal was eaten by all and offered to animals and plants in return for the promise of a full harvest. It certainly sounds like a very healthy feast!
Of course, May will also see the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. No Eid celebration is complete without Ma’amoul, delicious date-stuffed biscuits. You can find lots of Eid recipe ideas online.
The second bank holiday in the month of May was established as the Monday after Whit Sunday or Pentecost, seven Sundays past Easter Sunday. Now it is fixed by statute on the last Monday in May and bar-b-ques have become our new tradition.
Flaming June brings us to midsummer when it seems that few people party like the Scandinavians. After all, in some parts the sun never sets so it’s an all-day happening. So instead of a basic bar-b-que, why not try some Scandinavian favourites like pumpernickel toast with smoked fish and Swedish meatballs with numeg and allspice – not to mention delicious gin and vodka cocktails.
The actual solstice is not always on 21 June: it often falls the day before or after, but this year it will be. If you decide to celebrating, the hardest part might be that the precise time is 04:31 Pehaps we can leave the Druid mystics to enjoy the moment as they will be up and hoping to see sun rising exactly over the Heel Stone at Stonehenge.
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