It’s amazing how religions can preach different ways to lead lives or to pray and seek inner peace, yet, at any religious celebration, food is at the core. Be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or any other religion, food forms an integral link with celebration.
As a child, any festival would mean we would get sweet treats and fried things. The wonderful part is, some sweets and savory things are made only to celebrate that particular festival. I would always wonder why we couldn’t get my favorite sweets all year round and why did they have to make it only during a particular festival.
As I read more and more about diet and nutrition and discover how bad sugar is (some reports suggest sugar be banned or strongly regulated) and how greasy food is harming us, suddenly it makes sense why sweet and savory treats were only made for a particular festival and not all year round.
As much as we like to embrace change and prefer to adopt lifestyles that make us feel comfortable and free, our forefathers knew a thing or two about nutrition even without the deep research we have now. They figured it was bad to have sugar or greasy stuff all year round. They realized that one of the easiest ways for the mass to follow particular instructions was to tie it up closely with religion. In those days, many centuries ago, people were more inclined to follow the order of religion and not try to oppose it. So, they decided to put forth instructions that certain foods can only be eaten during certain festivals.
The deeper I delved into finding the inter-relation between food and religious festivals, the more I discovered reasons for certain practices. For instance, they recommend you eat certain preparations that have dried fruits in the winter festivals because they have more good fats. These fats help the body store more energy and keep you warmer. The ritual of having certain alcohol with your food is also closely linked to the region you live in. In the areas where it does get very cold, alcohols help bring your body temperature up. In India, we have the tradition of putting a red ‘tikka’ on the forehead. Acupressure suggests that applying pressure on the points between your eyebrows or on your forehead is beneficial. Muslims have to fast all day long during Ramadan, not drinking water sometimes. This helps them develop their mental strength or willpower as well as helps detoxify their bodies. Hindus also fast on certain days to appease Gods. But more than making a God happy, it has the benefits of detoxifying the system.
I do not believe certain religious practices should be carried forth in today’s day and age just because the traditions exist. Times have changed. Our life styles have changed. It would not help us in any way if we tried to follow every custom to the ‘T’. It is very important to change and adapt to the changing times. Adaptation is an important step to survival.
What intrigued me when I was reading so much into religious festivals and food is how relevant all their research is today. Obesity is on the rise and while our longevity is rising, we are leading less healthy lives. We should try to analyze some of the religious practices preached for a different time and see what would be relevant and helpful today.