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December 18


Saint of the day:

Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Spain)

Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 18 was a special day in the Church's calendar to contemplate this profound mystery.

Historically the Church, specifically the local church in Spain, celebrated a fascinating feast on December 18 called “The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It can be traced back to the 7th century and was originally the feast of the Annunciation.

At that time special feast days during Lent were not allowed and so instead of transferring the feast of the Annunciation from March 25 to a random day during Easter, the Church decided to transfer it to the Advent season. The date of December 18 was picked and the feast remained focused on the mysteries surrounding the Annunciation for several centuries.

By the 17th century the regulations during Lent were relaxed and the Church saw it more fitting to celebrate the Annunciation in March than in December.

They transferred the feast back to its original date, but in Spain they kept December 18 as a special day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Its celebration was even given an octave, making each day before Christmas a special day in honor of the Blessed Mother.









 Where did she go?

Luke 2:1-5

Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem

2 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all the people were on their way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם (Bethlehem) is made up of two Hebrew words: Bet בֵּ֥ית (meaning house) and lechem לָֽחֶם (meaning bread).

Mary's womb holds the bread of life. Mary goes to the house of bread to deliver the bread (Jesus). After delivering him she places him in a manger. 
What is a manger? A manger is a structure or feeder used to hold food for sheep or animals. The word comes from the Old French mangier (meaning "to eat"), from Latin mandere (meaning "to chew"). 

Mary's actions showed that Jesus is the "bread of life" and Catholics are reminded about the importance of the Eucharist and transubstantiation even at Christmas.

Giving Bread

Many countries give Christmas bread out as gifts of love like Panettone & Pandoro in Italy, Julekake in Norway, Stollen in Germany, Cozonac cu Nuca or walnut bread in Romania, Krendel Bread in Russia, Bobalky in Slovakia, Cougnou or bread of Jesus in Belgium, Christopsomo or Christ’s Bread in Greece, and Vánočka a braided fruit filled bread that is meant to resemble the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the Czech Republic. Sometimes Christmas wafers, Oplatek, are available from Churches which have been blessed for the families to eat before dinner. These charming Christmas wafers resemble a large Eucharist. The breaking of the Christmas wafer is a custom that began in Poland and it is now practiced by many people around the world. The Christmas wafer symbolizes the unity of the family, which should exist between all family members.


Peace on Earth


The Ritual of the Christmas Wafer: Gathered around the dining room table before the Christmas Eve dinner but right after grace the eldest male member takes the wafer and expresses his hopes for the new year. He also states that it is time to openly tell each other, I love you and I care about you. While holding the wafer he breaks off a piece to start the ritual. The remaining wafer is passed on to the next person at the table. All guests are welcomed to partake in this amazing family event, even pets. Each person is encouraged to give a blessing, a wish or to make amends. This continues until everyone at the table has a piece of the wafer. Finally, after each person has given the gift of unconditional love and forgiveness, while consuming a piece of the shared wafer, the father then leads the family in prayer, uniting the family. The wafer also symbolizes forgiveness, reconciliation, and above all love.

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people…

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.




Toledo, Spain


The feast owes its origin to the bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo, in 656. The accompanying of the expectant mother of Jesus became a prominent theme that spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula and Italy during the Middle Ages. A High Mass was sung at a very early hour each morning during the octave, and it became customary that all who were with child would attend, that they might honor Our Lady's Maternity, and seek a blessing upon themselves. "The feast heightens the anticipation of Christmas and makes the last few days of Advent unique opportunities to meditate on what Mary must have been pondering in her heart." It is sometimes joined with a novena beginning on December 16 and ending on Christmas Eve.





Fartons y Horchata

This is breakfast in Spain and this is typically eaten from Easter, until the end of summer, when it is warm on the terraces, although there are people who consume them throughout the year, since they have an incredible flavor. 

This just made me think that he, Christ, is the bread and she, Mary, is the milk....



For the dough:

  • 100 g of water

  • 70 g of butter (you can substitute it for oil)

  • 100 g of sugar

  • 30 g fresh pressed baker's yeast

  • 2 large eggs

  • 400 g of bread flour

  • 1 / 4 teaspoon salt

For the syrup:

  • 150 g of water

  • 200 g of sugar

  • 50 g icing sugar


  1. We start by crushing the sugar to get our icing sugar that we will then use to sprinkle on top. To do this we put 50 g of sugar in the glass and crush during 30 seconds approximately in progressive speed 5-10. We remove the icing sugar and reserve.

  2. We wash the glass to prepare the dough.

  3. We put in the Thermomix glass the water, the butter, the sugar (not the one we just made glass but that which is indicated in the ingredients of the dough), the yeast and the eggs. We program 10 seconds, speed 6.

  4. We add the flour and the salt. We program 4 minutes, glass closed, spike speed. Let it rest in the glass for about 15 minutes.

  5. After that time we put oil on the work table and dump the dough (it will be a soft and sticky dough but do not be scared that it works well). We spread our hands in oil and we form balls of about 25 g. To know the weight of the dough you can use the scale of the machine. When we have all the balls ready we will stretch them to form cylinders of about 20 centimeters (we roll them on the counter with the palms of our hands). We are placing our sticks on the baking trays lined with baking paper. It is important that we leave space between each bun because they will grow later. When they are all formed we let them rest for 2 hours.

  6. After that time, we preheat the oven to 200º.

  7. We bake for 5 minutes in batches. Be careful, the time is indicative. When you start the first batch, don't get lost and watch your fartons from the first minute to take them out when you think they are done.

  8. While the first batch is being made, while we do not take our eyes off the oven, we are preparing the syrup. To do this, we put the 150 g of water and 200 g of sugar in the glass and program 7 minutes, 100º, speed 2. We pour the syrup into an elongated container to be able to bathe the top of our buns in it.

  9. When we remove the fartons from the oven, we bathe them in the syrup (they must still be hot). Then we sprinkle with the icing sugar that we made in the first step and let it cool on a rack.

  10. We prepare our horchata or, failing that, our glass of milk ... and enjoy!




Spanish Horchata de Chufa

This tiger nut milk is easy to make and wonderfully refreshing.


  • 1 cup tiger nuts 150g

  • 2 cups water 480ml, for soaking, or more as needed

  • 2 cups water 480ml, for blending (or slightly more eg ¼cup/60ml)

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon or a little more, to taste

  • 1/8 tsp lemon zest or a little more, to taste

  • 2 tsp sugar or around 1tbsp, to taste


  1. Place the tiger nuts in a bowl and cover with water and a layer above them, around the first 2cups/480ml listed above. Place in the fridge and leave to soak for 18-24 hours.

  2. After soaking, drain and rinse the soaked tiger nuts well.

  3. Place the tiger nuts in a blender with half of the second lot of water (ie around 1 cup/240ml). Blend well until the tiger nuts are broken up and the mixture looks milky and frothy.

  4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, collecting the liquid, then transfer the tiger nut mixture back to the blender. Add the remaining water, cinnamon and lemon zest and blend again.

  5. Strain the mixture again, adding the liquid in with the first liquid you strained. Press down on the tiger nut grains with the back of a spoon or spatula to get as much liquid out of them as you can then discard the solids.

  6. Chill the mixture until needed and/or serve with some ice. You can top the glass with a dusting of cinnamon for garnish, if you like.

Note: you can also use a food processor to blend the mixture if you don't have a blender but make sure you blend it well to break up the tiger nuts as much as possible. With a high-power blender you may not feel you need to blend twice, but instead all at once. But still be sire to press down on the solids as you strain them. The tiger nut milk doesn't keep all that long once blended, so would recommend drinking within a day.

farton 4_edited.jpg


Christmas Fig and Walnut Sourdough Bread


  • 1 1/4 cups (283g) ripe (fed) sourdough starter

  • 1 cup (227g) water

  • 3 cups (360g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9g) salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, optional

  • 1/2 cup (85g) diced dried figs or cranberries

  • 3/4 cup (85g) walnuts, roughly chopped


  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping
    off any excess. Combine the starter, water, and flour in the bowl of your mixer
    just until smooth. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit (autolyse) for 1 hour.

  2. After an hour, add the salt and yeast, and knead the dough with your mixer's dough
    hook on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes. Just before the kneading is done, mix in the figs or cranberries.

  3. Stop the mixer and add the walnuts, using a dough scraper to fold them gently into the dough. Cover the bowl again and let the dough rise at room temperature for 40 to 60 minutes.

  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface (it will be fairly wet and possibly a bit sticky).

  5. Scoop up the edge of the dough with your dough scraper and bring it to the center, pressing down. Give the circle of dough a quarter turn counterclockwise, and repeat three or four more times. You're stretching the dough a bit and rounding it at the same time. For two smaller loaves, divide the dough in half and round each.

  6. Flour the banneton(s) you want to use, or a tea towel placed inside a bowl with a shape you find pleasing. Place the rounded dough into the banneton or bowl, bottom side up, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

  7. The next morning, preheat the oven to 450°F with a baking stone in the lower third. Put 1" of water into a small skillet that can go into the oven. Take your breads out of the refrigerator. They may not have risen a lot; that's OK.

  8. Bring the water in the skillet to a simmer and place it in the bottom of the oven. Place a piece of parchment on a baker's peel or the back of a baking sheet.

  9. Turn the loaves out of their bannetons onto the parchment. Slash the top(s) of the loaves, and slide the bread(s), paper and all, onto the stone in the oven. Spray the inside of the oven generously with water from a spray bottle and set a timer for 5 minutes. Spray once more when the timer goes off, and bake for another 35 minutes, until the center of the loaf reads 200°F when measured with a digital thermometer. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before slicing.

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