TIMES AND SEASONS - photographs and notes on Winter (EN) -
The olive tree - The fruit of the olive tree - Olive oil is still used for the lamps in Church - Old olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane - Wood for the home fires - Bread and olives - Christmas cheer - A glimpse of the high reeds -
“Reeds shaken with the wind...”
+ cf. Matthew 11:7
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EN: Winter (in English, Engels, EN)
The olive tree is always green, summer (see left) and winter. A relief in lands with little rain. The flowers do not stand out very much, but soon after the spring-flowering comes the fruit. Towards autumn they visibly start to swell and then they gradually darken till they are completely black, somewhere in winter. That is the time for picking the olives.
In the weeks preceding the harvest people hope for sufficient rain, that the oil may flow richly. For the olive harvest will have to provide both olives and oil for the whole of the coming year.
Green olives, picked just before they start to colour are considered a special delicacy, carefully prepared according to traditional recipes - usually meant to mature and ready round about the beginning of Great Lent. The black ones are picked later and can simply be preserved in salt or brine. A few olives and a piece of bread in one’s pocket used to be the simple breakfast of the farmer in the field.
But most of the olives are pressed to obtain the main treasure: olive oil - which means food, ointment and light …
Winter in Biblical lands means some much needed rain, as well as cold weather. Although snow and ice are usually only found higher up, in the mountains.
During the hours that it is pooring with rain, hardly anybody will venture outdoors. And while in other seasons the doors usually remain open most of the day, now is a time to leave the door shut and gather around the fire.
A season spent mostly with those ‘of the house’, a time to be quiet, or to share some stories … provided you have gathered your wood in time.
Winter falls at the end of Christmas Lent. Many Saints in this fasting period are celebrated festively, so there are many ‘oil days’. And during the whole of the fast olives are a favorite food, nourishing and strengthening - though last year’s stores are now coming to an end. The analytical approach of food science sometimes causes surprise, that nuts and olives count as fasting food. But this is not a matter of chemistry, but a change in the kitchen: ‘Oil’ means that we can fry an onion (etc), we can enrich soup and salads with oil, and bake all sorts of sweet and savoury pastries - truly a treat for festive fastdays.
In the cycle of the seasons, Christmas coincides with a short break in the agricultural year, just after mid-winter.
Each country has it’s own traditional ways to decorate the house, and each area has it’s own traditional foods - often including special biscuits and sweets.
But most characteristically, Christmas brings songs and good wishes - and in Orthodox Christian countries these also include: looking forward to Theophany.
The Jordan is in fact rather a tiny river. Along the shores of this small and, at times, muddy stream grow lush high reeds. At some places just a narrow border, at other places they form substantial reed-fields. In the dry season stalk and leaf dry out, but the long plumes remain standing for a long time. Thus the noise of the reeds can be heard clearly with the slightest breath of wind: “reeds shaken with the wind …” (cf. Matt.11:7)
Here a glimpse of the reeds near the site of the Baptism of the Lord - celebrated in January, at the Feast of Theophany, which crowns the twelve days of Christmas (although this photograph was taken in mid-spring, as can be seen from the fresh green leaves).