If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart.
Sharing food has been at the heart of human celebrations for centuries. On Orkney, there are hearths inside the Standing Stones o'Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar which are over 5000 years old. We cannot be sure if these were used for communal feasting, but the scale and location suggest they may have been.
|Stenness, Orkney by K. M. Lockwood CC|
|Homemade Humentashin by Ahoova CC|
Festive customs may mean different kinds of cooking and eating. Polynesian nations like Hawaii use an underground oven or imu to cook for hundreds of guests at a luau. Everyone uses their fingers and sits on matting. Anyone invited is accounted family or 'ohana . Note too the Norman-English word 'companion' is derived from sharing bread - pain in Modern French.
There can be fun and games too - hiding lucky items is not confined to silver sixpences in the Christmas pudding. Chinese people sometimes put a white thread for longevity or a copper coin for wealth inside New Year Dumplings 饺子 Jiǎozi (pronounced 'jyaoww-dzrr').
|Chinese New Year Dumplings by Shella CC|
Every sort of festival, whether ancient or contemporary, has its rituals of joy. These can be solemn or frivolous - but food and togetherness go hand-in-hand.
|Robert Louis Stevenson at a Royal Luau in 1889 Wikimedia|
- Contrast two scenes: one of famine and one of feast. The lack of food could be imposed through poverty, theft, incompetence - or chosen because of tradition, belief, self-sacrifice. How do your characters react? What will they do when there is abundance?
- Let rip with the sensual detail. Use the preparations to convey how they feel - do they embrace the coming festivities? Are they nervous or shy? Might the actual event change their minds - or reinforce their attitude? Does anyone go wild - or bottle out?
- Try a variety of scales - a wedding banquet throughout the realm - or a picnic for two on the balcony of a flat.
If you have imagination... you can make feast of straw.
Jane S. Hitchcock