What makes Christmas traditional? The first step, of course, is decorating the Christmas tree.. Then you have to prepare some traditional christmas sweets! In Greece during this holiday season, kourabies and melomakarono are the most popular! Of course there are different recipes but the typical ingredients are more or less the same. For melomakarono are : flour, sugar, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, oil and brandy. For kourabies the main ingredients are : almonds, fresh butter, brandy, flour and lots of icing sugar!
Which are the origins of their names however?
Qurabiya in Azerbaijani, Kurabiye, in Turkish and Kourabies in Greek, it literally means Kuru = dry, biye = μπισκότο (cookie). Μπισκότο etymologically derived from the Latin bis-cuit, which means baked twice, in Italian it’s called biscotto.
You would think that melomakarono has an Italian origin right? It’s etymology instead is ancient greek, “μακαρόνι” is obtained from the medieval greek word “μακαρωνία”, a funerary dinner based on pasta. The word “μακαρωνία” derives from the ancient “μακαρία”, which was a piece of bread offered after the funeral, in the shape of the melomakarono. When they added honey syrup on “μακαρία” it was called μέλι+μακαρία = μελομακάρονο, and that was when it was established as a sweet. Latins and later on Italians, used the word “μακαρωνία” as maccarone and spaghetti eventually! Finally in France and England, from the Middle Ages, a kind of almond biscuit was named «macaroon» (known to everyone today “macaron”).
photos © chrysoula papagianni