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List of foods with religious symbolism
Wikipedia list article
The list of foods with religious symbolism provides details, and links to articles, of foods which are used in religious communities or traditions to symbolise an aspect of the faith, or to commemorate a festival or hero of that faith group. Many such foods are also closely associated with a particular date or season. As with all religious traditions, some such foods have passed into widespread secular use, but all those on this list have a religious origin. The list is arranged alphabetically and by religion.
Many religions have a particular 'cuisine' or tradition of cookery, associated with their culture (see, for example, List of Jewish cuisine dishes). This list is not intended for foods which are merely part of the cultural heritage of a religious body, but specifically those foods that bear religious symbolism in the way they are made, or the way they are eaten, or both.
St Agatha's Breasts (also Agatha Buns, or Minni di Virgini) - served on the feast day of St Agatha (5 February), the small round fruit buns are iced and topped with a cherry, intended to represent breasts. St Agatha was martyred by having her breasts cut off, for refusing to surrender her chastity and virginity to pagans. Due to this association she has become the patron saint of bakers. Minne di Sant'Agata are a Sicilian version of the bun, made with a soft shortcrust pastry that holds a ricotta and chocolate mixture, and the same icing and cherry outer layer.
Baklava - in Greece, it is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life.
Bread - often (though not exclusively) unleavened bread; one of the two elements (with wine) of the Christian eucharist, the bread represents Christ's body.
Lammas loaf - ordinary bread, but baked using flour from the first cut of the new harvest, for the eucharist of Lammas Festival (1 August).
Lampropsomo - a type of Tsoureki bread, flavoured with ground cherry stones, served at Easter in Greece; the name signifies the light of Christ, and red-painted hard boiled eggs are inserted as a symbol of Christ's blood (often three eggs, symbolic of the Holy Trinity).
St. Lucia buns (St Lucy buns) - a saffron bun with raisins, also known as Lussekatter, associated with St Lucy's Day (13 December) celebrations, especially in the countries of Scandinavia.
Michaelmas Bannock, St Michael's Bannock, or Struan Micheil is a Hebridean bread made from equal parts of barley, oats, and rye without using any metal implements.
Michaelmas cake or St Michael cake - served at Michaelmas (29 September) this cake is identical to a butterfly cake, but the 'wings' represent angels rather than butterflies.
Paska - Polish and Ukrainian sweet bread baked and often blessed with other foods for consumption on Easter Sunday to mark the end of fasting.
Pretzel - Southern France monks (610 AD) baked thin strips of dough into the shape of a child's arms folded in prayer. Also associated with Lent in some places.
Religieuse - a type of éclair common in France, made to resemble a nun (which is the meaning of its name).
St Sarkis Aghablit - salty biscuits eaten by Armenian youths (traditionally girls, but also now boys) on the eve of St Sarkis's Day to induce dreams of their future spouse, by the saint's blessing.
St Sarkis Halva - a sweet pastry stuffed with fruit and nuts eaten in Armenian communities on St Sarkis's Day to symbolise the blessings brought by the saint.
Soul cake, soulmass-cake, or somas loaf - small bread-like cakes distributed on or around All Souls Day, sometimes known historically as soulmass or, by contraction, somas. The cakes commemorate the souls of the faithful departed. Once widespread in medieval England, the practice is now limited, but is also continued in a number of other nations.
Stollen - a German fruit bread with marzipan, eaten during Advent; it recalls a special Advent tradition restricted to Germany, granted by the Pope in the so-called "butter letter" (1490).
Święconka - a savoury meal, each element of which is symbolic, blessed in churches on Holy Saturday, and eaten on Easter Day, in Poland.
Vasilopita - Saint Basil's or King's cake, traditionally eaten on New Year's Day in Greece. It is baked with a coin inside, and whoever finds the coin in their slice is considered blessed with good luck for the whole year.
Dates - traditionally dates are eaten at the Iftar meal to break the fast of Ramadan, symbolically recalling the tradition that the prophet Muhammad broke his fast by eating three dates.
Halva - on the 7th and 40th days and first anniversary following the death of a Muslim, the semolina or flour helva is offered to visitors by relatives of the deceased; it is known in Turkish as “helva of the dead”. The ritual is also performed in Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran.
Ketupat - packed rice wrapped in a woven palm leaf. Associated with Eid ul-Fitr among Muslims in Southeast Asia.
Rendang - spicy meat dish of Minangkabau. The ingredients of the food contains symbolism of the Minangkabau culture: the chili symbolizes ulama and sharia, the meat symbolizes clan leaders, the coconut milk symbolizes teachers, spice mixture symbolizes the rest of Minangkabau society.
Sufganiyot - eaten on Hannukah, a fried pastry filled with sweet jelly symbolizing the miracle of oil.
Apples and honey - eaten on Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize a sweet new year; other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local custom, such as the head of a fish to symbolize the "head" of the year.
Bread - two loaves of bread (lechem mishneh), usually braided challah, the blessing over which the Sabbath meals commence, symbolic of the double portion of manna that fell for the Israelites on the day before Sabbath during their 40 years in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.
Tofu - the abura-age (soybean curd) is a favourite food of the foxes associated with the deity Inari and is offered at shrines.
Dumpling - symbolizes wealth because the shape is similar to money-related instruments such as the tael (Chinese weight measure) or Chinese ingots (especially the jau gok). They are eaten at midnight of Chinese New Year.
Noodle - symbolizes longevity, usually served in the Chinese New Year’s Eve.
^Anne Jordan (5 April 2000). Christianity. Nelson Thornes. Retrieved 7 April 2012. Easter eggs are used as a Christian symbol to represent the empty tomb. The outside of the egg looks dead but inside there is new life, which is going to break out. The Easter egg is a reminder that Jesus will rise from His tomb and bring new life. Orthodox Christians dye boiled eggs red to make red Easter eggs that represent the blood of Christ shed for the sins of the world.
^The Guardian, Volume 29. H. Harbaugh. 1878. Retrieved 7 April 2012. Just so, on that first Easter morning, Jesus came to life and walked out of the tomb, and left it, as it were, an empty shell. Just so, too, when the Christian dies, the body is left in the grave, an empty shell, but the soul takes wings and flies away to be with God. Thus you see that though an egg seems to be as dead as a stone, yet it really has life in it; and also it is like Christ's dead body, which was raised to life again. This is the reason we use eggs on Easter. (In days past some used to color the eggs red, so as to show the kind of death by which Christ died,-a bloody death.)
^An account of the soup, and a journey to discover its origins, in published in New Yorker magazine.
^Turner, Ina; Taylor, Ina (1999). Christianity. Nelson Thornes. p. 50. ISBN9780748740871. To mark the end of the Lent fast Christians eat hot cross buns. These have a special meaning. The cross in the middle shows how Jesus died. Spices inside remind Christians of the spices put on the body of Jesus. Sweet fruits in the bun show that Christians no longer have to eat plain foods.
^Fakes, Dennis R. (1 January 1994). Exploring Our Lutheran Liturgy. CSS Publishing. p. 33. ISBN9781556735967. Since people often gave up meat during Lent, bread became one of the staples of Lent. Bakers even began making dough pretzels--a knotted length of dough that represented a Christian praying, with arms crossed and hands placed on opposite shoulders.
^Hood, Karen Jean Matsko (1 January 2014). Halloween Delights. Whispering Pine Press International. p. 33. ISBN9781594341816. The tradition continued in some areas of northern England as late as the 1930s, with children going from door to door “souling” for cakes or money by singing a song.