On New Years eve of 2014, someone asked me what a good offering to the Kami would be. I responded that the typical New Years fare was mochi, a type of rice cake that the Japanese make. If there is something to be noted about the Japanese calendar, its that every season and every holiday has it’s own motif and dish. They have fully integrated their menu into their calendar.
I mulled over this concept for a while, and found myself thinking that the US sucks because we don’t have that sort of thing- a food calendar that mirrors our holidays. But then I realized that we sort of do- you’ve got champagne for New Years. Chocolate for Valentines Day. Beer for St. Patricks. Grilled foods for July 4th. Turkey, stuffing and cranberries for Thanksgiving. Technically, our whole calendar has food laced into it as well. The food may not be seasonal, and we may not entirely understand why that particular food item is a part of our calendar, but it is a cultural thing none the less.
So I began to wonder- could we do such a thing with our religious calendars?
Food and calendars could definitely be taken a couple of different ways, and I expect that if we were to create a food based calendar, that each person’s would be slightly different. For example, Kemetics may be able to agree on ball shaped items for Balls Day, but I imagine there would be regional differences for other holidays depending on what is available locally and what is in season. Whether you choose to let the holiday itself dictate the food, or the seasons that the holiday falls in would be up to each individual practitioner. And possibly the best results would come from a mix of both in each holiday/rite.
For some examples that I might consider using, I personally could see oranges for being good for any type of winter holidays that have solar or rebirth connotations because oranges are harvested in the winter in Arizona and they remind me of the solar disc. Sonoran styled Mexican food is a big thing down here, so that ends up being a part of almost all of my larger celebrations, regardless of what is going on. Anytime I do anything for Set, there are dark chocolate cupcakes involved because those seem to be his favorite. I could see eggs being useful for Wep Ronpet, as they can represent rebirth and new growth. I could also see birthday cake being used for Wep Ronpet because it is a grouping of birthdays after all. Additionally, there is already a type of food tradition with Wep Ronpet that involves snake cakes.
If you wanted to do rites or rituals that involve your heart (perhaps another layer to Valentine’s Day?), you could include clusters of grapes or grape-laced food items for their symbolism tied to the heart. For Feast of the Beautiful Valley, an akhu veneration holiday, you could choose food items that are considered family traditions. The Mysteries used to involve corn mummies, so corn or maybe tamales (which are wrapped in corn husks) could be an easy food choice for modern celebrations as well. And I personally think that baking is a good choice for Unification holidays, because you’re taking a bunch of separate ingredients and mixing them together into something new, something whole. Perhaps for holidays centered around battles or war deities, we could prepare food on skewers or kababs. Or for holidays tied to smiting your enemies, you could have mashed potatoes because you effectively “smashing” your enemies.
Whether you choose to let the holiday determine what food you use, or let the time of the year and seasonality of the dishes you’re eating determine what you make for a holiday, I recommend experimenting with marrying the two. A lot of our life events and holidays do incorporate the sense of taste into the experience, which can create a stronger bond and perhaps a better experience. Plus, if you can create strong ties between religious celebrations and food, you can almost evoke the sense of that celebration anytime you eat that particular dish as a means of bringing religion into your day to day life.
There are lots of possibilities to discover and experiment with when it comes to food. Perhaps the next time you need a reason to celebrate, you can choose a dish that is worth celebrating around and building from there!