A series of festive sweets for different winter holidays around the world.
The foods and holidays from left to right are: Sufganiyot for Hanukkah, Tāng Yuán for the Chinese Dōngzhì Festival, Milk and Cookies for Christmas, Kagami Mochi the Japanese New Year, and Peach Cobbler for Kwanzaa.
This series of spot illustrations gave me an opportunity to combine my two loves: discovery of culture + food. I enjoyed exploring different traditions, symbols, and desserts, as well as artistic styles and techniques. It was a delicious learning experience for me, and hopefully for you too. Happy holidays!
Chosen B&W Test with Notes
Close up Details
Sufganiyot (or "sufganiyah" for singular,) are traditional jelly-filled doughnuts that are eaten during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah (or more traditionally spelled, Chanukah). The doughnuts are deep-friend in oil to symbolize the oil lamps that burned for eight nights in the Holy Temple. Similarly, the chanukiah holds eight candles plus a ninth central candle. The ninth candle is known as the Shamash (“helper” or “servant” candle) and is used to light the other eight candles. The light of the chanukiah symbolizes an eternal flame. In 2021, Hanukkah was celebrated from Nov 28 - Dec 6.
汤圆 Tāng Yuán
A desert consisting of sweet dumplings that are made from rice flour and water. The mixture is often dyed pink or yellow with food coloring (or left plain white) and shaped into balls. Then they’re boiled or deep-fried, and eaten with broth or—in this case—syrup made from water, ginger, sugar, and padan leaves. Tang yuan is commonly eaten during the Dōngzhì Festival. This is the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival (literally meaning “the extreme of winter”) which symbolizes togetherness and reunion going into the new year. It was celebrated on December 21, 2021. Also, tāng yuán sounds very similar to tuán yuán, which means “reunion.”
Milk and Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. As many know, it’s a Christmas tradition to leave cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, so that he’ll leave presents under your Christmas tree (the engagement ring was from my fiancé though 😊).
A traditional Japanese New Year decoration made of mochi! Kagami means “mirror” and mochi is a Japanese rice cake, so it literally means “mirror rice cake.” To my understanding, it’s similar to a Christmas tree, in that it’s put on display around the end of the year until January 11th. This day is known as kagami biraki (“opening the mirror” or “breaking of the mirror”), in which the kagami mochi is broken with a wooden mallet (NEVER scissors, because it is considered severing one’s bonds). The mochi inside of the hard outer shell is then eaten! Nowadays though, I believe most people just buy a plastic sculpture and peel off a plastic seal at the bottom. The mochi is often prepared with a savory soup. The kagami mochi itself symbolizes many things such as yin and yang, family, and tradition. One of my favorite things I learned about kagami mochi was that it’s often topped with a daidai (a Japanese bitter orange). Dai also means “generation,” so daidai is a play-on-words for “generation to generation.”
To my understanding, Kwanzaa is a seven day long celebration of African American and Black culture, tradition, community, determination, and success. It always goes from Dec 26 - Jan 1, and one candle is lit per day to represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The candle holder is called a kinara, and the cup is called a unity cup. The holiday also represents the first fruits of harvest! (Kwanzaa literally means “first.”) While concepting a food illustration to represent Kwanzaa, my fiancé suggested peach cobbler, because it reminded him of how his grandmother always made peach cobbler around the holidays.
The ring that my finacé gave to me on November 18, 2021. 😊