Complicated Calendar

Complicated Calendar

Aylin Öney Tan -
Complicated Calendar “Nisan” is the word for the month of April in the Turkish language, which is the equivalent of the month of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. The word has its roots in old Babylonian Assyrian Aramaic language, which is an ancestor of both Arabic and Hebrew. April is about renewal, about the new tastes of the spring, be it eggs or milk, or greens or lamb; it is all about what spring stands for. Actually, the associated Sumerian word “nisag” meant first fruits.

This year, April welcomed two major spring holidays on about the same dates. Both Christian Easter and Jewish Passover coincided, making the first week of April exceptionally festive. The week of Passover started April 3 and will end of the evening of April 11, while April 5 was Easter Sunday for the Western Churches. The Orthodox Church however, will celebrate the date on April 12, which can still be considered as coinciding with Passover. If Jews still existed in Edirne, the border town of Turkey, this Passover would be exceptionally festive, as the Edirne Synagogue has been restored to its former glory. If it were the Byzantine times, the Edirne Jews would be happy that the dates coincided, because strangely they were not allowed to celebrate Pesah/Passover if the dates fell before Easter.

Both the Hebrew and Christian calendars are quite complicated, making it impossible to predict whether Easter or Passover is earlier or later.

The formula for Easter is actually very simple: It is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. This is identical for both Western and Eastern Orthodox Churches. But then what is the vernal equinox? That is more complicated, as churches use different calendars, basing the dates on ecclesiastical moons, paschal full moons, or an astronomical or fixed equinox. At that point the confusion starts. The Eastern Orthodox Church had a formula for that which is very logical. Since the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Easter definitely always has to be after Passover. But in the Western Church, Easter sometimes precedes Passover by weeks, just because they did not come with such a simplistic solution. The Last supper – L’Ultima Cena of Jesus Christ - was actually a Pesah Seder table; logically Passover has to predate Easter.

Well, to admit I do not care about when is which, I enjoy both, in the context of their festive delights. Just set up your table with the tastes of Easter or Pesah/Passover, have a glass of wine, kosher or not, and imagine what would happen if the calendar was really twisted and the Seder table of Jesus was set in our contemporary life! To help your imagination here is a hilarious video or the last dinner:

Bite of the week

Recipe of the Week: Haroset is one of the essential elements of the Pesah Seder. It symbolizes the mortar the enslaved Jewish people used in building the monuments in Egypt. There are several haroset recipes that are all delightful to enjoy, even if one is not Jewish. This one has all the goodness of the Mediterranean flavors; my personal touch is a dash of orange flower water, please do try to add it if you can get hold of some. Finely chop 1 cup of stoned dates and steep them in 1 cup of sweet red wine together with 1 cup of raisins. The wine should be kosher; in Turkey, Kavaklıdere winery produces kosher wine usually found in all fine delicatessen shops in Nişantaşı, Istanbul, but if you’re not keeping kosher any sweet wine will be fine. Meanwhile, grate the peel of an orange first, then peel and chop the flesh reserving all juices. Add all to the date-raisin mix.

Cut 1 red apple into a fine dice. Mix all in a saucepan, add 1-heaped teaspoon of cinnamon and a generous pour of orange flower water. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat until it has the consistency of a thick paste. Haroset is a must on the Seder table, but it will also be a lovely addition to your breakfast or tea table along with some clotted cream kaymak.

Fork of the Week:
Undoubtedly, both Easter and Passover are about eggs. But aren’t we fed up with eggs with pale yellow yolks? Now there is a new range of eggs with guaranteed bright orange yolks. The “Kor Yumurta” brand feeds their chickens a special blend of red peppers, alfalfa meal and marigold flowers. Here, the essential element is the marigold, so they grow their own organic marigolds to ensure a yield of eggs both healthy and healthy looking. Check their website and look for it in major supermarkets. If you want to dye your eggs naturally to make the traditional Sephardic Passover eggs, Uevos Haminados, put lots of brown onionskins in the bottom of a pan (1 onion skin per egg seems to be just), nestle the eggs in the skins, cover with water, add one heaping tablespoon of Turkish coffee and 2-3 tablespoons vinegar. You may add a teaspoon of turmeric for a yellow tint. You do not necessarily have to use white eggs in this recipe, brown eggs will do well. Pour in enough olive oil to cover the surface to prevent evaporation of the water. Barely simmer without letting it boil over very, very low heat for 4-5 hours.

Cork of the Week: No Seder table is complete with four full glasses of kosher wine. To find out availability of local and international kosher wines in Turkey, check the website of Denet Gıda, which gives a whole list of all kosher products in Turkey. The choice of drinks are not confined to wines only, there is also kosher rakı as an alternative, surely not for the Seder table, but for other occasions.