After our Advent recipe for fasting before the feast HERE it is high time to remember how we celebrate Christmas with an original Szeged fish soup on the festive table!
Christmas customs and Christmas menu
What do we celebrate at Christmas? Obviously: the birth of Jesus. The date of Jesus’ birth is known as December 25th. However, in many Catholic churches the eve before the feast – the vigilante – rises to almost the same celebrated level as the feast itself. So Christmas Eve, strictly speaking, is not yet part of the celebration, but rather it is a preparation for the arrival, it is part of Advent. That’s why “Christmas fasting” also fits in well.
However, the habit of fasting on December 24 cannot be said to be uniform. In many places, it was believed that they had to eat a lot and in full variety in order to ensure the abundance of the following year. Many are offering legumes (such as beans, lentils) and poppy seeds to symbolise the collection of money. Apples were a must for beauty and health, while honey and baked pumpkins were meant to keep sore throats away. Garlic preserved the health of family members, while walnuts were used to predict death. It was believed that a family member who breaks a bad walnut during Christmas will be ill or die the following year.
The Christmas table was given great importance. In many areas Christmas tablecloths are already sown in spring to make sure year-end celebrations will include a full and rich harvest. For a similar reason, the host sometimes placed his craft tools under the Christmas table. That is how they received the blessings that would make next year’s work a little easier.
Szeged fish soup for Christmas
For Christmas Eve and of course for the entire year to come we wish our dear readers Health, Family peace, Success at Work, Generous Abundance and Good Luck!
And, what do put on the Christmas table on Christmas Eve? Here in Szeged what else, but Szeged fish soup, the kind cooked along the river Tisza!
The Szeged fish soup (full recipe and photo source here) is a perfect match for the Christmas duality of fasting and abundance. No meat, but nowadays not an ordinary dish, rather a specialty that fits the holiday.
When preparing fish soup, the first question is whether to follow the tradition from the Tisza or the Danube region. They both agree that the soup must be based on carp, and that the more sorts of fish will be added the more delicious the fishsoup will be. The lovers of the Tisza (Szeged) tradition start with a base bouillon from pounding smaller fishes like crucian and bream. At the Danube, in Baja, all ingredients, such as chopped onions, chopped fish and paprika, are cooked all at once. Before serving they add some pre-cooked pasta. (We’ve written in greater detail about the differences here.)
If we want to please the family with Szeged fish soup, for 2 kg of mixed fish we would add 400 gram of onions and 30 gram of original fresh Szeged paprika. Each recipe emphasizes that the spice should be a mix of premium quality hot and sweet paprika. Lovers of spicier foods can also season the fish soup with dried cherry paprika.
We wish you good appetite and a happy family gathering for the holidays!
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