December 24

Adam and Eve's Feastday
Christmas Eve

Adam and Eve appear in many books besides Genesis, such as the Quran, the Life of Adam and Eve, the Talmud, and Gnostic texts. Jewish tradition sometimes includes reference to other wives of Adam. Adam and Eve were never officially recognized as saints by the early Church. However, they were honored as unofficial saints throughout the Middle Ages. December 24 was set aside for several centuries as their feastday and was often celebrated with a Paradise Play which told the story of humankind from the creation of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden up to the birth of Messiah in Bethlehem. The play featured a large evergreen tree called a Paradise Tree, with its branches laden with red apples. Eventually, small white discs were added representing communion wafers, the Christian sign of redemption.

The Paradise Tree was especially popular in Germany where it was brought into peoples'
homes and was decorated with dried apples that had been kept in the root cellar for the winter. In 1880 glassmakers in Thuringia discovered how to make blown glass balls and bells which soon replaced the apples and resulted in  what we all know as the traditional Christmas tree all over the world.

The apple has traditionally been the most popular symbol of the forbidden fruit mentioned in the Bible, which did not describe the specific fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. that Eve ate.  "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Genesis 1:16-17]. There have been controversies over which fruit the Bible referred to with many scholars believing that the fruit was a pomegranate or a fig.  There have also been speculations about the peach, apricot, quince, fig, and banana.

There have been a few films portraying the first couple in Paradise, including The Last Eve (2005) with Bruce Khan and Jourdan Lee Khoo as Adam and Kelly Hamilton and Melanie Jean as Eve, Mike Figgis' exquisitely beautiful A Loss of Sexual Innocence (1999) with Femi Ogunbanjo as Adam and Hanne Klintoe as Eve, and John Huston's atrocious The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966) with Michael Parks as Adam and Ulla Bergryd as Eve.


 Adam and Eve by Albrecht Curer

Adam and Eve's Feastday is still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and often with apple dishes, such as the traditional Adam and Eve pudding.

Adam and Eve Pudding


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt


1/2 cup raisins
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored. and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
butter for greasing pan


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cream 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Beat in eggs and zest into sugar/butter mixture.
  3. Sift flour and salt. Beat into batter. Stir in raisins.
  4. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and cloves together. Sprinkle mixture on apples.
  5. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Place apples on bottom. Poor batter over apples. Bake for 45 minutes

Christmas Eve has traditionally been celebrated with special breads and cakes, a tradition that is rooted in pre-Christian times. With the arrival of the winter solstice, wheat was traditionally offered to the field gods in hopes that the coming spring would produce good planting weather and a good harvest. In Poland and in the Ukraine, sheaves of wheat are brought into the house at Christmas Eve and stacked in the corner of the living roam or ding room The Ukrainians bake their loaves of Kalach which are stacked on each other over a bed of straw, with a candle stuck in the center of the top loaf.

In Germany, Christstollen is the traditional Christmas bread. Stollen is thought to have originated in Dresden in the 1400s. However, at that time the Catholic Church, as part of the fasting rules in preparation for Christmas, forbade the use of butter during Advent. In 1650, Elector Lord Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht appealed to the Pope Urban VIII to rescind the so-called "butter ban" in effect at the time. The Holy Father eventually gave in to their entreaties and declared (in what came to be known as the "Bufferbrief") that milk and butter could indeed be used in baking the stollen - this could be done with a "clear conscience and with God's blessing", after making the "appropriate penance". The restrictions were lifted only in Dresden and thus began a baking tradition that continues to this day.

In Austria, a similar bread called Klentzenbrot is baked. Norway has its Julekake, the Czechs, Slovaks, and other middle European countries have have Kolach, the Greeks have Christopsomo , and the Italians celebrate with Panettone . Here are two of the recipes.




1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1 cup candied lemon & orange peel
1 1/2 oz. candied angelica
1/3 cup glacé cherries
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup warm water
3 packets active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
5 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter, cut small
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup slivered almonds, blanched
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

  1. Place the candied and dried fruits in a bowl. Pour the rum over the fruit, mix well, and let soak for 1& 1/2 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1/2 tsp of the sugar. Stir and allow to stand for about 5 minutes or until frothy.
  3. Drain the fruit, setting the rum aside, and dry it on a paper towel. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. flour and allow the flour to become absorbed. Set aside.
  4. Heat the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and salt in a saucepan, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rum, almond extract, and lemon rind. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding yeast mixture.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 4&1/2 cups of the flour with the milk/yeast mixture. Beat the eggs until frothy and add to the dough. Mix in the softened butter. Form the dough into a ball and turn out onto a board sprinkled with the remaining flour. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes or until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic. Gradually add the fruit and almonds, kneading just enough longer to incorporate them. Place the dough in a buttered mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let stand in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled.
  6. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Let stand 10 min. Roll the halves into 12 x 8-inch slabs approximately 1/2 inch thick. Brush each with 1&1/2 Tbsp. melted butter and sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the remaining sugar. Fold each strip by bringing the edge of one long side to the center of the strip and pressing down the edge. Repeat on the other side, overlapping the folded edges by about 1 inch.
  7. Place the loaves on a buttered baking tray and brush the tops with the rest of the melted butter. Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until doubled in volume.
  8. Bake the loaves on the baking tray at 375° F for 45 minutes or until they are golden brown and crusty. Let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 1/2-inch slices before serving.




Special Equipment
An empty 2-pound coffee can (now marked 23 to 26 ounces)
waxed paper


1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110-115° F)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup brandy
5 TB. butter, room temperature
2 eggs
4 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110-115° F)
4-1/2 to 5 cups flour
1 tsp anise seed
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup chopped candied fruit
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
nonstick cooking spray.

  1. Sift together flour and salt onto sheet of wax paper. Set aside.
  2. In small bowl sprinkle yeast over water. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In mixing bowl, using electric mixer at medium speed, beat eggs with remaining sugar until frothy.
    Add butter and beat until well combined. Continue to beat while adding orange zest, anise seed and brandy Add yeast mixture, then gradually beat in sifted flour.
  4. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Add dried fruit, beating until thoroughly combined.
  5. Cover bowl with clean damp towel or plastic wrap and let stand in warm draft-free area until dough is doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray inside of coffee can with nonstick cooking spray.
  7. Punch dough down, then turn into prepared coffee can. Bake in middle of center oven rack for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325° F and bake until top is browned and bread begins to pull away from can bout 30 minutes longer.
  8. Unmold onto wire rack and let cool.

© 2012 Gordon Nary