There is a good article in today's Oregonian on challah. Good timing, since I was thinking about challah and holiday breads in the shower this morning (yes, sadly it is true that some days I think about breads and baking pretty much around the clock).
I was thinking about holiday breads this morning in the context of updating the home page of TFL to replace the Thanksgiving breads with Christmas breads. Whenever I update the homepage with holiday breads, I get concerned about the possibility of a perceived geographic or cultural chauvanism here. I realize that this site has readers and members from countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America; members who celebrate Jewish holidays, Islamic holy days, Christian holidays, Chinese festivals, or a combination of more than one of the above; members who are devotely religious, others who celebrate these festivals in a less religious but no less significant manner, others who celebrate none of the above. Even secular holidays like Thanksgiving run the risk of alienating readers from elsewhere in the world who either don't celebrate the same holidays or celebrate them on a different date (yeah, that's right, I'm talking to YOU, Canada!).
Bread is significant in so many traditions and celebrations that to ignore the rituals surrounding bread would miss a tremendously important aspect of the history and meaning of bread. Whenever I've felt like I understand and can share the meaning and history of a ritual bread, I've tried to post about them and share those stories. Even for non-participants in those traditions, it is enjoyable to learn those stories.
I share the stories and traditions that I feel like I can do justice to, but there are many more stories I do not feel comfortable telling. The ritual significance of challah is one such example. Though I've read a great deal about it, as someone outside the Jewish tradition I don't feel like I can do justice to its significance and explain its ritual context appropriately. The same is true of the breads and baked goods that are baked when breaking fast at the end of Ramadan. These simply are not rituals I've participated in.
But you may.
In the next few weeks I'm sure this site will be featuring Christmas breads and trying to explain the background and significance of some of these recipes and traditions. In the appropriate season, I'd love to see members of other faiths and cultures share their stories and recipes so I and others can learn more about their traditions. It is great to see photos after a holy day, but it is even better if stories, photos, and recipes can be shared before hand. The best posts are along the lines of "A week from now people in my part of the world (or of my faith) are going to be celebrating ... We celebrate this because ... We'll be baking ... because ... " I will gladly highlight those on the homepage if they are accessible, well put together, and have photos and recipes to support them.