Christmas means sweet treats!
Can you have a festive table without Christmas sweets? Of course not! Because Christmas sweets, whether a local tradition or imported from abroad, go hand-in-hand with the happiest season of the year, for children and adults, sprinkling the beauty of the days with sweetness.
Some are crunchy, others have fillings; some, like Christmas Cake and Vasilopita, are fluffy, and others are as white as the snow that usually accompanies Christmas – well, at least in the mountains. Whatever the case, they are delicious and unique, and we get to eat them once a year. And that time has come!
Starting off with Kourabiedes, which along with Melomakarona adorn the festive table in the lead-up to Christmas, as – depending on the type of butter used – they can both be consumed during lent, it is a crunchy biscuit with an almond filling, dipped in rose water or syrup and covered with icing sugar. Its name appears to have originated from the Arabic variation of the Latin word biscuit, Qurabiya, which the Venetians spread in Asia when they began trading with the region.
In Cyprus, Finikota are also served at Christmas, which is a local version of Kourabiedes with a date filling; namely the date is included whole with the seed removed and replaced with a walnut.
Melomakarona are also biscuits, made from a mixture of dough and walnuts, which once baked are covered in syrup and sprinkled with crushed walnuts or pistachio nuts. Their name originates from the marzipan biscuit macaroon, which was popular in medieval Europe.
Then we have Christmas Cake, which arrived from England and is here to stay, as it adorns almost every Christmas table. It is a cake with a history that dates back many centuries, which stands out because of its filling of dried fruits (in Cyprus we prefer to use raisins, orange peel and spoon sweets), intense spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, carnation) and of course its white fondant icing, which can be decorated with small Christmas decorations. It is a sweet that can be preserved for at least a month and is usually sliced and served on the last day of the Christmas season. Whatever is left, you can grind up along with some chocolate and serve as truffles!
And of course, on New Year’s Day, every homeowner must serve a Vasilopita, a fluffy sweet that harbours in its filling the desired object for each new year: the flouri (tinfoil-covered coin) which is meant to bring good luck. The history of Vasilopita, which has a special flavour thanks to its contents of anise, mahleb and mastic, dates back centuries, to Cappadocia, the place of residence of Saint Basil, who used to bring presents to little children on the first day of every year.