Question: When should you take down Christmas tree?
The Traditional Answer: Traditionally, Catholics do not take down their Christmas trees and holiday decorations until January 7, the day after Epiphany. Time to put away the Christmas tree till next year.
Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas on 6th January (or January 19th for some Orthodox Church who have Christmas on 7th January) and is the time when Christians remember the Wise Men (also sometimes called the Three Kings) who visited Jesus.
Epiphany is also when some Churches remember when Jesus was Baptised, when he was about 30, and started to teach people about God. Epiphany means ‘revelation’ and both the visit of the Wise Men and his Baptism are important times when Jesus was ‘revealed’ to be very important.
Some Churches celebrate use Epiphany to celebrate and remember both the visit of the Wise Men and Jesus’s Baptism!
Epiphany is mainly celebrated by Catholics and Orthodox Christians. It’s a big and important festival in Spain, where it’s also known as ‘The festival of the three Magic Kings’ – ‘Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages’, and is when Spanish and some other Catholic children receive their presents – as they are delivered by the Three Kings!
In Spain on Epiphany morning you might go to the local bakers and buy a special cake/pastry called a ‘Roscón’ (meaning a ring shaped roll). They are normally filled with cream or chocolate and are decorated with a paper crown. There is normally a figure of a king (if you find that you can wear the crown) and a dried bean (if you find that you’re meant to pay for the cake!). In Catalonia it’s known as a Tortell or Gâteau des Rois and is stuffed with marzipan.
In France you might eat a ‘Galette des Rois’, a type of flat almond cake. It has a toy crown cooked inside it and is decorated on top with a gold paper crown.
There are similar traditions in Mexico where Epiphany is known as ‘El Dia de los Reyes’ (the day of The Three Kings). It’s traditional to eat a special cake called ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (Three Kings Cake). A figure of Baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake. Whoever has the baby Jesus in their piece of cake is the ‘Godparent’ of Jesus for that year.
In Portugal, people take part in Epiphany carol singing known as the ‘Janeiras’ (January songs). On the Island of Maderia they’re known as the ‘Cantar os Reis’ (singing the kings).
In Italy, some children also get their presents on Epiphany. But they believe that an old lady called ‘Befana’ brings them. Children put stockings up by the fireplace for Befana to fill.
In Austria, at Epiphany, some people write a special sign in chalk over their front door. It’s a reminder of the Wise Men that visited the baby Jesus. It’s made from the year split in two with initials of the names that are sometimes given to ‘the three wise men’, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, in the middle. So 2020 would be: 20*C*M*B*20. The sign is meant to protect the house for the coming year. Some parts of Germany also have the tradition of marking over doors. The ‘Four Hills’ Ski Jumping Tournament also finishes on 6th January in Bischofshofen, Austria.
At Epiphany in Belgium, children dress up as the three wise men and go from door to door to sing songs and people give them money or sweets, kind of like Trick or Treating on Halloween. Children in Poland also go out singing on Epiphany.
In Ireland, Epiphany is also sometimes called ‘Nollaig na mBean’ or Women’s Christmas. Traditionally the women get the day off and men do the housework and cooking! It is becoming more popular and many Irish women now get together on the Sunday nearest Epiphany and have tea and cakes!
In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (which celebrates Christmas on 7th January), twelve days after Christmas, on 19th January, the three day celebration of Ethiopians Timkat starts. This celebrates Jesus’s baptism.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, in the USA, on Epiphany/King’s Day, the Christmas Tree is either take down or the ornaments are replaced with Purple, Gold and Green ones and it’s then called a ‘Mardi Gras Tree’! People also like to eat ‘King Cake’ (a cinnamon pastry with sugar on the top and sometimes filled with cream cheese or jelly/jam). The King Cake will have a little baby plastic doll inside (which represents Jesus); whoever gets the piece with the baby has to supply the next King Cake! Some people have “King Cake Party” every Friday before Lent (the time before Easter).
Epiphany Eve (also known as Twelfth Night) marks the end of the traditional Christmas celebrations and is the time when you were meant to take Christmas decorations down – although some people leave them up until Candlemas.
Soak in 1 cup whiskey (more if needed later for soaking the cake and storing).
Use candied red and green cherries, pineapple, apricots, plums, orange, lemon and ginger,
Candied cherries -1/4 cup
Candied apples – 1/4 cup
Dates – 1/2 cup
Raisins – 1/2 cup
Chopped Nuts – 1 cup each
Cashew nuts or peanuts
Almonds or pecans
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp dry ginger powder
Take 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbsp water in a utensil and let it boil in medium heat
After a while, the syrup will start becoming brown in colour
When it becomes darker, add 1/2 cup warm water and mix well
Be careful while adding water to the very hot caramelised sugar, it might sprinkle and cause burns
Caramel syrup is ready for cake
Soak candied fruits, raisins and chopped dates in whiskey for minimum 12 hours.
Finely chop dried nuts and keep aside.
Make fine powder of spices.
Take a wide bowl.
Beat eggs, sugar and oil.
Add caramel syrup, spice mix and soaked fruits, into the bowl.
Add wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda and blend well.
Add salt and vanilla extract and mix well.
Add more whiskey if needed.
Mix the chopped nuts in 1 tsp flour so that nuts do not settle in the bottom of the mixture.
Preheat oven at 325 degree F.
Grease a baking tray and sprinkle some flour.
Pour the cake mixture into the tray and sprinkle chopped nuts.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes and check with a tooth pick to see if done. Toothpick should come out clean off cake is baked well.
Remove from oven and cool.
Cake is ready.
Poke holes into the cake with a long stick or toothpicks. Add more whiskey. This technique is called soaking or feeding the cake.
Cool and store in an airtight tin for 15 days at least before enjoying. Cake is delicious marinated this way.
The best fruit cakes are matured for at least a month and moistened or ‘fed’ from time to time with alcohol such as whiskey, rum, sherry, Madeira or brandy. Fruit cakes made solely from dried fruit will keep for several weeks and up to a month; fruit cakes containing both dried and fresh fruit will go mouldy more quickly. Fruit cakes that have been matured and fed with alcohol can be stored for a year or more.
When making dense fruit cakes such as a Christmas cake, the batter needs to be heavy enough for the dried fruit and nuts to be suspended in it; if it’s too thin the fruit will sink to the bottom. Another challenge comes from the sweetness of the dried fruit, which will scorch and turn bitter if the oven temperature is too high. This is why traditional fruit cake recipes often require you to bake the cake slowly at a low temperature and to line the inside and outside of the tin with paper: a double thickness of parchment paper inside, and several layers of newspaper secured with string outside.
If you want to ice the cake with fondant, click here for FONDANT ICING recipe. (Store bought is good too). This cake takes a large quantity and you are better off making your own!
Marzipan makes a good icing too, place the marzipan on cake while chilled so it is easy to handle and will cover well. Eat at room temperature. Click here for the Marzipan recipe.
One of the most startling things of this festive season: the desi bride and groom are actually made of cake.
Flury’s became known both for the cakes it provided in its café and the elaborate concoctions it made on demand. Bachi Karkaria, in her book, Flury’s of Calcutta: The Cake That Walked, recorded one made for a Lucknow nawab that was almost 60 kilos in weight and 35 square feet in size. When it was taken by van it had to be wrapped in multiple protective layers: “When the van slowly drove out of the gates, people thought there had been an accident in the factory, and that a shrouded body was being ..
Christmas cakes at least had a traditional presence on the calendar. Other formal cakes, like wedding cakes, were much rarer.
In case you’re wondering about the name of this cakey, chewy-edged cookie, which nearly explodes through its sugary crust, it’s a nod to a coffee bar creation in which a shot of espresso tops off a cup of masala chai, the Indian spiced tea. It’s right at home on a traditional holiday cookie plate, thanks to its festive cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. Feel free to add a little freshly grated nutmeg, if you’re so inclined. A strong coffee flavor adds nuance; black pepper lends a spicy kick; and malted milk powder, browned butter and brown sugar all contribute toasty warm notes to this craveable treat.
2 tablespoons malted milk powder, such as Carnation brand
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 large eggs
¾ cup/165 grams light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
¼ cup/50 grams granulated sugar, for rolling
½ cup/50 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for rolling
Put espresso or coffee in a small metal bowl. Put butter in a small saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, swirling and stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until nutty brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the butter to the bowl with the espresso and stir to combine. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of the cookie.
Combine the flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly and set aside.
Combine eggs and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined and slightly paler, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl as needed.
Add the vanilla and the butter mixture, then mix on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture, then mix again on low until combined. Transfer dough to a resealable glass or plastic container, and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar into two separate bowls. Use a small cookie scoop to portion dough into heaping tablespoons (about 25 grams each). Roll into smooth balls and drop a few at a time into the bowl of granulated sugar, rolling to coat. Transfer to the bowl with the confectioners’ sugar. Roll gently, coating well, then transfer to a parchment- or silicone mat-lined baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. Place in freezer until firm, about 10 minutes.
Bake until cookies are golden underneath but still quite tender (they will firm up as they cool), 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool a few minutes on the baking sheets and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.
Nothing makes a better end to a Christmas dinner than a rich, dense Christmas pudding. Home chef Rhea Mitra Dalal is keeping the steam and spirit alive.
The days are getting cooler and it will be winter soon. We found a nice article on the forgotten Christmas pudding.
On Belvedere Road in Mazagaon, we look for a signboard for Katy’s Kitchen. We’re told they make the best Christmas pudding in town. Minutes later, we are escorted by a staffer to an old, one-storied building. Walking up its high stairs, a toasty, intoxicating fragrance of goodness simmering on a warm afternoon engulfs us. Home chef Rhea Mitra Dalal welcomes us into what looks like a one-room kholi, lined with old trunks, vintage chairs, white tables, large degs or aluminium pots and intricate railings of windows from a long, long forgotten Bombay.
Dalal’s love affair and entrepreneurial association with food started in 2000, when she married into a Parsi family that had an established catering business. In 1976, Dalal’s mother-in-law, famed cook and archaeologist Katy Dalal had started a catering service from her home in Fort and expanded it into one of the best in the business. “She was happy to have me join in, bring new ideas to the table and be a helping hand. When she passed away 10 years ago, I changed the name from Dalal Enterprises to Katy’s Kitchen in her honour. Most of our staff is trained by her,” says Dalal.
Katy had travelled the world with her shippy husband, being adventurous with food and experimenting with local delicacies. One such find was the Christmas pudding they tried in England. The taste had stayed with Katy for long after and she recreated the recipe, referring to a couple of books. Eventually, she started making it for family and friends, and later, clients. “She was very confident of her recipe and the result had been consistently good; so, we took the plunge. Even today, making Christmas pudding is my most precious activity in the year. I feel I am carrying her recipe forward, hence the name Katy’s Christmas pudding. She may not have invented it, but she did things her way.”
The preparations start a year in advance, when Dalal soaks raisins, fruits and spices in brandy and rum for the next December’s batch. “I find it amusing how it has become a trend for five-star hotels to organise the annual cake-mixing ceremony one month before Christmas. The fruits need to be soaked for long for the flavours to develop. One year, when we couldn’t make puddings, and the fruits kept soaking until we made a batch the following year; the clients had loved it the most. So last year onwards, we started to make an extra batch that would be used two years later,” says Dalal.
Pudding V/S Cake
Puddings don’t have the bulk of the flour, nor are there leavening and rising agents. Its density comes from being packed with rich ingredients like almond flour, apples and vegetables. Also, since it is steamed, not baked, the balance is different, as is the texture. The pudding won’t rise more than half a centimetre.
Katy’s Christmas pudding is priced at Rs 1,700 (large), R900 (medium), and available on order Call/WhatsApp 9820904694
When the fruit is drained, the Dalals retain the beautifully flavoured mother liquid that keeps maturing over the years. The soaked fruit is well-drained and added to the final mix of flour, almond flour, sugar, jaggery, butter, eggs, apples and vegetables to achieve a multi-layered taste. It is packed densely in a mould, sealed and steamed for around six hours to be thoroughly cooked through. “The pudding is thick and because it is in a sealed container, steam doesn’t get in easily. It has to heat uniformly and cook through the middle,” says Dalal.
The first batch of Katy’s Christmas puddings are steamed by December 1 so that they can be couriered to the outstation clients. “What’s Christmas without a Christmas pudding after all,” smiles Dalal. “These can be had immediately or when well-sealed and refrigerated, even after a year,” she adds.
Katy Dalal, my mom in law, started a catering business from home many years ago. As she tried out new dishes and cuisines her popularity grew as did her skills and knowledge in the kitchen. One of her biggest successes has been the Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter.
I started helping her with the making after K and I were married and I always found it to be one the most fun things to do with her. I like to believe it also made her happy to see me pitching in.
Piles of raisins, black currants, dried prunes and a host of other, then unfamiliar, ingredients would be cleaned and then put in a huge plastic barrel. Then endless bottles of rum and brandy would be poured in, and K would also fling in the leftovers from random opened bottles of wine and other suitable liquor that was handy. In a week the alcohol would have to be topped up as the shriveled fruit would be plump with the booze and would have risen way above the alcohol in the barrel. The barrel would be sealed up and forgotten till a week before Christmas.
Large quantities of juicy red winter carrots have to be grated. Along with this a mountain of apples are grated.
Fresh bread crumbs, white flour, demerara sugar, molasses, candied ginger, ground almonds, butter, freshly powdered nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom, and eggs are all mixed in a huge vat. The soaking fruit is drained and then added to the mix.
The tins are buttered and lined with butter paper. Then the pudding mix is filled in, topped with a circlet of butter paper and then sealed either with a lid or with aluminium foil. The larger pudding moulds come with a lid, the smaller ones don’t.
Steam the puddings for 4 hours and they are ready to be dispatched. We recommend that the puddings be steamed once again for an hour before serving.
The brandy butter is a delicious accompaniment to this pudding. Blend regular salted butter with powdered sugar and a generous dash of brandy. Chill the butter till it is nice and hard.
Ma in Law would serve the pudding with a dash of drama. She would light half a cup of brandy and pour it over the pudding. We would put off the lights of course!
I have taken over the mantle of Christmas Pudding maker now. And I look forward to Christmas every year when we do a special Christmas menu and these traditional Christmas Puddings.
Photo credit – Ketan Pandit
You can purchase Katy Dalal’s “Delicious Encounters: Innovative Recipes Parsi, Indian and Western Paperback Cookbook” for a low price from here:
The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latin magus, borrowed from Greek μάγος magos, as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (“μάγοι”). Greek magos itself is derived from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan magâunô, i.e., the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born (see Yasna 33.7: “ýâ sruyê parê magâunô” = “so I can be heard beyond Magi”). The term refers to the Persian priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic, although Zoroastrianism was in fact strongly opposed to sorcery. The King James Version translates the term as wise men; the same translation is applied to the wise men led by Daniel of earlier Hebrew Scriptures (Daniel 2:48). The same word is given as sorcerer and sorcery when describing “Elymas the sorcerer” in Acts 13:6–11, and Simon Magus, considered a heretic by the early Church, in Acts 8:9–13. Several translations refer to the men outright as astrologers at Matthew Chapter 2, including New English Bible (1961); Phillips New Testament in Modern English (J.B.Phillips, 1972); Twentieth Century New Testament (1904 revised edition); Amplified Bible (1958-New Testament); An American Translation (1935, Goodspeed); and The Living Bible (K. Taylor, 1962-New Testament).
Although the Magi are commonly referred to as “kings,” there is nothing in the account from the Gospel of Matthew that implies that they were rulers of any kind. The identification of the Magi as kings is linked to Old Testament prophecies that describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings in Isaiah 60:3, Psalm 68:29, and Psalm 72:10, which reads, “Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations serve him.” Early readers reinterpreted Matthew in light of these prophecies and elevated the Magi to kings. By AD 500 all commentators adopted the prevalent tradition that the three were kings. Later Christian interpretation stressed the Adorations of the Magi and shepherds as the first recognition by the people of the earth of Christ as the Redeemer, but the reformer John Calvin was vehemently opposed to referring to the Magi as kings. He once wrote: “But the most ridiculous contrivance of the Papists on this subject is, that those men were kings… Beyond all doubt, they have been stupefied by a righteous judgment of God, that all might laugh at [their] gross ignorance.”
Adapted from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Magi
In Christian tradition, the Magi (pronounced Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three)Kings, or Kings from the East, are a group of distinguished foreigners who are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity and in celebrations of Christmas.
Three Kings Cake
King’s Cake is the traditional dessert. French settlers brought this custom to New Orleans around 1870 to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany- the arrival of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas. The round shape of the cake represents the circular route taken by the Three Kings to confuse King Herod, who was following them to find the Christ child. A small figurine symbolizing the baby Jesus, small coin or bean is baked into the King Cake. In 1871, the tradition of choosing the queen of the Mardi Gras was decided by whoever found the prize in the cake. Today, it is considered good luck to find the prize and that person usually hosts next year’s party and bakes the King Cake. The three colors used to decorate the cake are symbolic to the festival and were chosen in 1872: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.
Three Kings Cake Recipe
Preparation Time: 2 hrs 30 mins Cooking Time: 15 mins
Servings: 2 cakes, 15 servings each
CAKE 1/2 cup warm water, (110° to 115° F) 2 packets (1/4 oz. each) active-dry yeast 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk, divided 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3 large eggs, at room temperature 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 2 small, plastic baby figurines, coins or beans each wrapped in wax paper
ICING 2 cups powdered sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice 3 to 4 teaspoons water, divided 2 tablespoons each of green, purple and yellow sugars
COMBINE powdered sugar, lemon juice and 3 teaspoons water in small bowl until smooth. If necessary, add additional teaspoon of water to achieve a spreadable consistency.
SPREAD half of icing over top of first cake, allowing icing to drip down sides.Immediately sprinkle with half of colored sugars in 2” wide strips of green, purple and yellow. Repeat on other ring with remaining icing and sugars.
COMBINE warm water and yeast in glass measure. Let stand for 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon evaporated milk to use as a wash later; refrigerate.
COMBINE 4 cups flour, sugar, lemon peel, salt and nutmeg in large bowl. Make a well in the center. Place yeast mixture, remaining evaporated milk, eggs, egg yolks and butter in well; stir well. Add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour until a soft smooth dough is formed.
PLACE dough on lightly floured surface; knead gently for about 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as necessary. Shape into a ball. Place in large greased bowl; turn over. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. GREASE two large baking sheets.
PUNCH dough down. Remove dough from bowl to lightly floured surface. Cut dough in half. Return one half to bowl. With dough on board, cut dough into three even pieces. Roll each piece to a 24-inch length. Braid. Lift braid to baking sheet. Form a ring and join ends. Lift up one area and insert the figurine that has been wrapped in wax paper by pushing it up through the bottom. Cover ring with greased plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining half of dough. Allow to rise in warm place for about 30 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Brush top of each ring with reserved tablespoon of evaporated milk.
BAKE for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.