Celebration Breads

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About
It is a truism that every major world religion regards bread as a theological or cosmological symbol as well as an essential food. In many culturally specific breads, the ingredients and methodology are similar, sometimes nearly identical, to breads from other regions, and the differences may be as simple as a twist, a chosen braid, a garnish, or a particular spice, fruit, or nut. Unlike “everyday” breads, consumed primarily as a foodstuff and less for commemorative or symbolic meaning, celebration breads fulfill synchronous cultural functions regardless of their geographical context. Such breads are often used as vehicles through which stories are told and knowledge is passed from generation to generation via rituals, music, and festivities. The ample use of eggs, for example, is both symbolic and practical, as many of these breads are made after long fasting periods in which eggs, universal symbols of life and birth, are collected but not used until the actual day of festivity, when the fast is finally broken.