CHRISTMAS #3. PASTRY SWADDLING CLOTHES (Τα σπάργανα του Χριστού)

spargana

Thin ribbons of fried dough or strips having the thickness of a pencil…
They are crunchy but fragile and melt in the mouth.
It’s quite easy to make them; you just need flour and water or orange juice and sometimes eggs or/and yeast. Cut the pastry sheet into squares of 7cm width or into ribbons of 10 cm x 15 cm or strips of 0,50 cm x 18 cm.
Twist ribbons and strips around two fingers while you transfer them to the hot olive oil, producing shapes of flowers, double cross and tubes.
Deep -fry until they start to turn gold. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Then pour honey or petimezi (grape syrup) over them and cover with chopped walnuts, sesame seeds and cinnamon powder.

In past, a great deal was prepared before the Christmas Eve. These fried pastries were the traditional treat to the Christmas visitors and gifts to widows and to those in mourning. They are called lalangia, lalangites, diples, pitoules, tiganites, avgokalamara etc. and evoke the swaddling clothes of Christ.
Spargana (swaddling clothes), is what they are called in Northwestern Greece. There, at night, dawning Christmas, the women pour a light batter of flour and water on a heated stone or piece of metal and make a sort of pancakes. Then, they pour honey or syrup over them and sprinkle them with pounded walnuts and almonds. Sometimes layers of spargana are piled upon each other, each one spread with honey and covered with chopped nuts. When it’s time to serve, the spargana have absorbed the honey and are tasty and fluffy.

These pastries belong to the special foods, which are offered by women to women in puerperium. When offered to Mary, they identify her with every other new mother. They also identify her son with every other newborn and in a way they prefigure his death since their shape is so similar to a shroud.

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8 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS #3. PASTRY SWADDLING CLOTHES (Τα σπάργανα του Χριστού)

  1. Well, our humble pastry with an exceptional symbolism! I just loved the background of spargana, especially its interpersonal-social holiday use!!!
    Thanx Mariana!

  2. These simple pastries are the best. I have completely forgotten about avgokalamara. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays. Happy New year with good health to you and your family.

  3. George, in northern Greece, cabbage-dolmades also figure on the Christmas table as a symbol of Jesus’ swaddling clothes.

    My best wishes for a happy New Year, dear Ivy!

    Cynthia, not only fried doughs but also pita and honey, Pain D’espagne, sweet omelette etc. are the traditional foods for postpartum mothers. Of course, you can call them calorie bombs.

  4. Hoping you can help me figure out the name (and a recipe) for a sweet I had as a kid. I had a Greek babysitter when I was small, and I remember her making a coiled fried fritter, drizzled with honey and some finely ground almonds, around Christmas time. The fritter was a long ribbon of dough about 2 inches wide that was coiled around itself, so that the fried goodie ended up about 2 inches high, and probably about 3 inches across. I vaguely recall her rolling the dough out on a sheet on the kitchen table before cutting it with a wavy pastry rolling cutter (sort of like a mini pizza cutter). Unfortunately, she is gone now, and I was only about 3 when I stopped “helping” her (mostly by sitting quietly on a chair in the kitchen). For some reason, I can’t remember ever hearing her say the name of the sweet, and nothing I’ve seen in cookbooks sounds similar. Any suggestions as to what this sweet is called or a recipe for it would be greatly appreciated. Here’s to a wonderful 2010.

  5. It looked like the ones in the first 2 links. Would you happen to have a recipie for either of them? Thanks so much!

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