Tag Archive | advent

Advent-lighting the candles

When I was young I used to love the tradition of lighting the candles one-by-one on each Sunday in Advent during the run up to Christmas. Today I lit my first candle and it’s glowing happily in the corner. With the temperature plunging to 2 degrees in the last couple of hours it’s a welcome and warming sight.

Little fast, little feast

I have been looking back to see what I was writing about this time last year, and surprise surprise, Advent and Christmas were the topics of the day. Again, it’s hard to believe that it is exactly a year since I wrote the post whilst we were in the midst of the big freeze. I remember driving to the station one morning when it was -10 degrees. Today it is +10 degrees. 

In Iran 1 December marks the beginning if the “Little Fast” followed by some Christians during the 25 days leading up to Christmas Day known as “Little Feast”.   Although Iran is predominantly an Islamic nation, there are also some Moslems who celebrate Christmas as a non-religious festival. Christmas trees and decorations are bought, turkeys ordered and sometimes gifts are exchanged in the same way as we do here in the UK.

During the 25 day “Little Fast” which is meant to purify body and mind, Orthodox Christians follow a diet free of meat and dairy products only breaking their fast when Communion is received early on Christmas morning. To break their fast, the traditional dish of Harissa is eaten and here is a recipe for the chicken and barley stew.

Enjoy!

Armenian Harissa
Ingredients:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • butter
How to cook it
Rinse chicken and place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, with the pot partially covered until chicken is cooked.
Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter and allow to cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make a total of 8 cups
Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
Simmer on a very low heat, without stirring, covered, for about 4 hours
Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika to taste.
 
ArmenianHarissa.jpg

Time flies

I can’t believe that it has been almost two weeks since I last posted. I have done so much but achieved so little and it is beginning to dawn on me that today being the start of Advent, Christmas will soon be here.

The late November temperatures are higher than average, my geraniums and fuchias are blooming merrily and yet I have a holly tree bursting with red berries. It looks rather incongruous to say the least but I’m not complaining.

So the great Christmas countdown begins in earnest and I need to get my act together soon if I’m to post my cards in good time. I’m not a fan of the commerciality, hassle and hub-bub of Christmas at the best of times but this year I have much more exciting things to do than go racing round the shops.

In the meantime, Will has a football match and I need to get to the craft shop if I’m to finish my pages today. Christmas cards and garlands have to wait.

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Iran

Today, 28 November 2010, is the first Sunday in Advent. This is when Christians start the annual wait for the “coming” of Christ celebrated on Christmas Day. Children all over will have their Advent Calendars at the ready and will begin opening the doors on 1 December. For me, Advent is when I start thinking about Christmas, a good 2-3 months behind Mr Tesco.

In Iran too, the 1 December, marks the beginning if the “Little Fast” carried out by some of  the sizeable yet minority population of Christians for the 25 days leading up to Christmas Day known as “Little Feast”.  Christians in Iran include Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians who are mostly Armenian-Iranians and have their own religious rituals.  Although Iran is predominantly an Islamic nation, there are also some Moslems who celebrate Christmas as a non-religious festival. Christmas trees and decorations are bought, turkeys ordered and sometimes gifts are exchanged in the same way as we do here in the UK.

During the 25 day “Little Fast” which is meant to purify body and mind, Orthodox Christians follow a diet free of meat and dairy products only breaking their fast when Communion is received early on Christmas morning. To break their fast, the traditional dish of Harissa is eaten. This meal is also the national dish of Armenia, and like many recipes handed down from generation to generation, there will be regional variations. I have managed to find a recipe for the chicken and barley stew which sounds just the sort of meal perfect during the current big freeze! 

ArmenianHarissa.jpg

Armenian Harissa
Ingredients:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • butter
How to cook it
Rinse chicken and place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, with the pot partially covered until chicken is cooked.
Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter and allow to cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make a total of 8 cups
Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
Simmer on a very low heat, without stirring, covered, for about 4 hours
Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika to taste.