The Baptism of Jesus

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The Epiphany is one of the earliest feasts of the Eastern Church. In the Maronite Church, the Epiphany marks the Baptism of Our Lord and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him. At midnight, on the night before the Epiphany, Maronite tradition has it that Jesus will pass over and bless the homes. At the moment Christ passes, all creation bows down to Him except for the cursed fig tree and the proud mulberry tree. We greet each other with the term “Deyim Deyim” which means “everlasting everlasting” and signifies that the Everlasting never forgets to visit. Dough is kneaded and left out to create the yeast starter that will be used for the rest of the year. Windows, doors and the grain houses are left open so that they can be blessed and protect the homeowner from poverty. We attend Mass and take with us bottles of water to be blessed and used in the house for the rest of the year.

This feast usually falls in the holiday period and for children the following activities can bring a sense of awe and wonder which remain with them for life.

Suggested Family Activities

  1. Decorate a water bottle to take with you to Mass on the Epiphany for the water to be blessed and the bottle to be used for the rest of the year.
  2. On the eve of the Epiphany open all your windows and doors and light a bonfire (or a candle at the door) so that Christ can pass over your house at midnight.
  3. The Maronite Liturgy refer to this feast at the Feast of Light. Gather around bonfire and explain the Epiphany and our traditions to your children. Stay up till midnight and bow down with the rest of Creation.
  4. Teach your children to greet others with the term ‘Deyim Deyim’
  5. Make a yeast starter. In the past Maronite’s baked bread and the yeast starter was made and hung out on the eve of the feast of the Epiphany. A small mixture of flour and water was formed into a small piece of dough. The dough was then hung on a tree on the eve of the feast. Villagers believed that Christ would come late and bless the dough and all creation. The trees and animals would all bow at the moment Christ passed over. The small piece of dough would be hung on various types of trees, with the exception of the fig tree. According to legend, the fig tree had been cursed and was also shunned because Judas was said to have hung himself on this tree. This starter, called khamiret al-Massih – meaning Christ’s yeast – was then used to make bread. Before the bread was baked, a small piece of the risen dough was set aside to leaven the next batch. This process continued throughout the year.

There is a real science behind sourdough which is interesting to teach our children. It can teach children to value food and the effort that must go into making it. They can also learn about ecosystems in their kitchens, using only a handful of basic ingredients. Here is a wonderful kids lesson plan which includes the science behind the starter https://zerowastechef.com/2015/10/08/kitchen-science-for-kids-sourdough-starter-lesson-plan/

  1. Make Epiphany foods. With the left over dough, we make Epiphany foods. See recipes below.

Epiphany Recipes

Sourdough Starter

You will need:

1 cup of lukewarm bottled spring water (do not use tap water, it has chemicals. You can also use water in which raisins have been soaked overnight to begin the fermentation process).

2 cups of unbleached flour

Tablespoon of salt.

Mix and kneed the flour into a loose mixture and put into a tulle type material and hang onto a tree overnight – just make sure it is not the fig or mulberry trees.

Zalebyi 

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast (or your yeast starter if you are brave)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil
About 3 cups of luke warm water (use 2 1/2 cups initially and add as necessary)
Granulated sugar

Mix flour, salt, yeast, sugar and oil with water, kneading and leaving mixture soft. Set aside until dough rises, about 1 hour. Cut off pieces of dough and stretch into strips about 6cm’s wide and about 10 cm’s long. Fry in hot oil until golden brown (leave this part to the adults). Remove from oil and sprinkle with sugar.

Awamaat 

Use the same recipe for the dough as for the Zalebyi.

Make a syrup by combining sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, for about 10 minutes. Add rose or orange-blossom water, and simmer for a few seconds longer. Remove from heat, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat frying oil in a deep pan over a medium-high heat until the oil reaches 375 degrees. Dip two tablespoons in a small bowl of oil to coat. Working in batches, spoon about a tablespoon of batter into hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally, until puffed, crisp, and golden. Reduce the heat a little so that the awamaat are thoroughly cooked without getting too brown. The light batter produces irregular rather than round awamaat.

Using a slotted spoon, remove awamaat, and transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Dip awamaat in the cold syrup for a few seconds to coat and soak up some syrup. These are best served hot, but they may also be served at room temperature.

Theresa Simon