At Christmas we often show our love with a salami. I don’t know how Hillshire Farms survives the rest of the year, but during the Christmas season business booms as neatly packaged grassy nests of unrefrigerated salami and warm wet cheeses are exchanged, often multiple times.
How salami came to be a customary gift at Christmas has been forgotten, but I suppose it has something to do with the end of the year and having to get rid of all those leftover pig parts that have been piling up since we made 4th of July hot dogs. I’ve never heard of anyone giving his sweetheart a big Valentine’s salami, even though that symbolism makes some sense.
On Halloween we offer chocolates to the walking dead. Despite countless educational horror films which plainly demonstrate that monsters seek flesh, brains, and blood (basically, salami) we continue to try to placate neighborhood zombies with a Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cup.
But while chocolate may not be ideal for a holiday of fending off monsters, it might work splendidly for Sunday Communion.
The celebration of Communion varies greatly. At my church they baked fresh bread and passed it around. It symbolized the body of Christ, which in this case was still warm. You tore off a chunk as it went by, and chased it with a sip of wine. I visited a church down the street and was startled when the pastor laid a thin wafer on my tongue that was as pleasing as parchment. He said, “Peace be with you,” and I was supposed to respond, “And also with you,” but it came out “ack-ack-ack.” I couldn’t stop myself from imagining it was the peeled sunburn of Christ. The pastor instructed me to keep my tongue sticking out for a moment, which was fine with me.
Why can’t they use Nilla wafers? Or little cheddar-flavored crackers shaped like Our Savior. Jeez-Its? Better yet, offer little chocolate Jesuses—I’d be happy to stand in line for that, or chocolates shaped like crosses or fish—any of the popular logos. God is good. Communion chocolate would be a natural pairing with wine, and as I said, we’re already handing out bite-size Snickers to the other risen dead.
At Easter, many celebrate the fertility season by biting the head off a chocolate rabbit. Then they move on to the better parts of a pig.
For Passover we eat bitter herbs, just to remind ourselves how bad food can get, not counting Manischewitz. The Jewish find this symbolic reminder meaningful, while Gentiles get stuck with a salami.
To the Jewish, food must be kosher; to Muslims it must be halal, which is to say that it must be acceptable to God. In neither case will God accept a salami.
During Ramadan, the power of food is symbolized by its absence, which is to say you don’t get any. One of the benefits of a thirty-day fast is that, when you end it, even garbanzo beans taste great.
Thanksgiving is the only holiday where food makes any symbolic sense. We celebrate being big, fat, rich Americans by eating big, fat and rich food. As our Halloween zombies would quip, that’s a no-brainer.
Fourth of July is second only to Halloween in the weird use of sweets, as we toe up to the curb to admire a colorful parade of firetrucks and tanks while encouraging our confused children to leap into the oncoming traffic in pursuit of cheap candy thrown by strangers.
New Year’s Day is perfect for symbols of new life. We should eat eggs and caviar and enjoy the arousing qualities of chocolate. Heck, a salami would be perfect here. Instead, we start our new year eating aspirin.
Perhaps it’s not about logic. I bought four bags of Halloween candy last year, and only half made it out the front door, thanks to my “quality control sampling.” I know this: if holiday food made sense and it was a big bowl of Halloween brains in my fridge, I wouldn’t be tempted to cheat.