This is in Luke’s gospel: The shepherds witnessing Jesus’ birth arrived before the Magi/Kings and were the first to not only witness the birth but to evangelize the birth long before the wise men. Research indicates Jesus was less than a week old when the angel appeared before them showing the shepherds the way.
The shepherds were in the area around Bethlehem, shepherding their flocks in fields when the angel came. The “glory of the Lord” shone around the angels and that made the shepherds fearful. But the angel calmed them down, telling them not to be afraid because the angel brought good tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. “And this shall be a sign – you’ll find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”.
The shepherds knew that the town of David was Bethlehem so they went right away.
There’s a tradition in some families to have a “Shepherd’s Night” meal honoring them and to “eat under the stars” – which would be by the Christmas tree with lights. What foods would be included?
The shepherds would have certainly had cheese on hand to eat. It could have been the kind of Middle Eastern cheese that I make – it’s a soft cheese made with whole milk and lemons. You could substitute your favorite cheese. I like to make a pine cone shaped cheeseball – it’s very pretty and tasty.
Nuts would have been eaten. I like to serve a big bowl of various nuts in the shell. It’s fun to crack them open. Almonds would be a significant nut to eat along with pistachios – they’re the only 2 nuts I could find mentioned in the Bible.
Fruits: pomegranates, figs and apricots which are Biblical fruits. Which ones do you like?
Olives were an everyday food during Bible days.
Today there’s a huge selection of olives. I like the cured, wrinkled black olives from the Mediterranean. You could serve several varieties.
Beans. Chickpeas would be nice to have as hummus.
My family’s hummus is yummy – we add a bit of cumin, another Biblical spice, along with yogurt, to ours. I like to have cucumber spears to dip into the hummus too.
MY FAMILY’S HUMMUS
Better than anything you can buy and a lot less costly. If too thick, add a little water.
- 1 can, 15 oz, chick peas, drained
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons each: lemon juice, olive oil and Tahini (ground sesame seed “paste”) or more to taste
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt, or more to taste
1.Mash chickpeas by hand or in food processor until desired smoothness is reached.
2.Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Adjust seasonings.
Yield: 2 cups approximately
Crackers/Breads. How do they fit in the feast?
I serve what’s called handkerchief bread – it’s a real thin flat bread that you just tear apart to use as a scoop.
Whole grain crackers – with sesame and flax seeds – would have Biblical significance.
Meats could be included. Maybe Deli meats?
The shepherds most likely had goat or lamb. But we can veer a bit here. Think of very thin slices of salamis, prosciuitto, maybe honey baked ham too!
What about something sweet for dessert?
Well, our holiday sweet of choice is our Lebanese baklava. Also Jordan almonds – large almonds with a sweet candy coating. And always I have Halva – that sesame seed confection. Now there’s no real recipe for our baklava – a little of this and a little of that, but as far as the almonds go, here’s a recipe for honey roasted almonds – I think they are excellent and a good substitute for the Jordan almonds:
HONEY ROASTED BEER NUTS
One of my most requested recipes. You’ll make this all year long!
- 2 cups whole almonds, skin left on and toasted **
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons each: honey and water
- 2 teaspoons Canola oil
1. Mix sugar and salt in large bowl and set aside.
2. Stir together honey, water and oil in pan and bring to a boil. Immediately stir in nuts and continue to cook and stir until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer nuts to bowl with sugar/salt mixture and toss until evenly coated.
4. Pour out onto sprayed cookie sheet. When cool, break up and store airtight at room temperature up to a month.
**To toast nuts: Pour in single layer on cookie sheet. Roast at 350 until fragrant, about 8-12 minutes. Stir from the outside edge into the center a couple of times.
I like to give these in a clear beer stein tied with a colorful ribbon.