Christma-terials #1: Chocolate


A new series looking into the eats that make Christmas amazing

by Alexander Quebec

Starting off our new series on Christmas foods is our entry on Chocolate. Of course, when we think Chocolate during the holidays, we think Valentines Day (duh). The reality is much different though as Easter takes the top spot for Chocolate consumption throughout the year. In any case, let’s take a little look at chocolate.

Yule logs are one treat that some of us are familiar with during the holidays. Also known as Bûche de Noël in both France and Belgium, the dessert is a roll cake filled with icing, jelly or some other sweet filling, rolled and shaped into a log. It’s often adorned with sweet treats such as marzipan or spun sugar.

The cake’s origin, however, had a much different meaning. Back during Europe’s Iron age, a log containing pine cones, holly or other sacred items like salt or wine, would be burned during the end of the Winter Solstice to welcome the new year, and spring. The ashes of the logs were said to contain special properties that would protect the family and the home from danger.

The rise of Christianity, and smaller fireplaces in the homes at the time, made burning the logs impractical. But old traditions die hard. It’s reported that the cakes were made as early as the 1600’s. But it was Parisian bakers in the 19th century who would make logs made into the shapes or cakes, thus the tradition of eating a log shaped cake was born.

Another chocolate tradition actually comes from a different holiday that happens around the same time, Chanukah. Chocolate Coins, or gelt, are popular give-aways to children playing with the dreidel, but the original tradition actually comes from an old tradition of giving money to children to give to their teachers.

Chanukah itself celebrates the miracle of a day’s supply of oil lasting over 8 nights, after the temple was sacked by a conquering army. To commemorate the victory over their conquerors and the miracle of their supply of oil lasting as long as it did, Jews commemorate with dinners consisting of fried foods like potato pancakes (latkes), jelly dough like treats called sufganiya, and other fried treats using oil.

And, of course, we can’t forget Hot Chocolate. Even if it doesn’t snow here, California still gets chilly enough for the creamy and warm treat. The fact that we’re using it close to the original way chocolate was consumed is a lucky coincidence.

The original drink, created by the Mayans and later drunk by the Aztecs, was a mixture of cocoa beans, chilli peppers and water. The drink wasn’t sweetened, but was rather bitter and it was mixed until it resembled a frothy looking beverage. Today, there are many variations of Hot coco out there, but as for me, I’m more into the Mexican hot chocolate I find

Chocolate, popular throughout the year, is especially popular during Christmastime. We’re sure you have your favorite chocolate tradition, tell us about it in the comments below.

Cover photo credit: NDTV Food


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