If you are fortunate enough to spend Christmas in Cyprus, a visit to the bakery is a must to stock up on Cypriot sweet treats. One of the beauties of the 'foreign experience' is to observe the customs and eating habits of the locals. The first three on the list are eaten mainly during the Christmas holiday season.
1. Melomakarona (honey walnut cookies)
Melomakarona are orange and cinammon flavoured cookies covered in honey and nuts. Often walnuts are added in the centre before they are rolled. Other varieties are chocolate- or coconut-covered melomakarona.
2. Kourabiedes (almond shortbread)
Kourabiedes are almond shortbread-type biscuits coated with icing sugar and shaped into circles, crescents or balls. The use of spry shortening ensures the pastry is light and fluffy. They can be flavoured with vanilla, mastika or rose water and some contain whole almonds.
3. Phinikota (shortbread filled with dates and nuts)
Phinikota are made without almonds in the dough and are filled with dates, nuts and spices. They are not unlike mince pies, but are much lighter in texture.
4. Loukoumades (doughnuts)
Loukoumades are small doughnuts served hot with a covering of your choice. Traditionally they are covered in honey, but since I bought them in the lovely Glykopolio dessert shop in Limassol, I asked for nutella. These are available at any time and are also favourites at festivals and special events.
5. Kataifi (nut pastry in syrup)
This dessert is popular in Greek, Turkish and Middle-Eastern nations. It consists of kataifi (string) pastry with nuts (almonds and walnuts or pistachios) in a honey syrup. A dollop of natural yoghurt or fresh cream on the side helps neutralize the sweetness.
As we enjoy these biscuits and desserts over the Christmas season, let us remember the reason we are celebrating. The Christ of Christmas offers the sweetness of peace with God through repentance and faith in Him.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!