I·ATE: Karavai, tsoureki and other names of the wedding bread

March 11, 2017 10:00 am

Spring has come and it has marked the start of the wedding season all over the world. There are some wedding traditions that are shared in a lot of countries and one of them is baking a wedding bread. Karavai, tsoureki, challah – the names of this wedding bread are different depending on the country. Discover the different versions of this wedding dish in our I·ATE section!

karavai - IATE Term of the week

There are different opinions around when and where this bread was first used in a wedding ceremony. The origin of this tradition probably came from the Ancient Rome. The Romans were the first to give a loaf of specially baked bread to the bride and groom as a symbol of welfare and prosperity. The loaf of bread was then divided into pieces by the young marrying couple, who offered the biggest part to the Gods and ate the rest. Since those days, the Roman wedding bread has changed a lot and now looks more like a fruit cake rather than bread, but its ancient variant had an influence on a lot of countries.

The wedding bread became very popular in Slavic countries, symbolizing hospitality and fertility. Its name sounded practically the same in Russian (karavai),  Ukrainian (korovai),  Polish (korowaj), and in Bulgarian (kravai). Although the recipes may vary the main features have remained the same: the round braided bread made of wheat flour, embellished by little figures of the sun, the moon and some animals, in particular the figures of two swans as a symbol of faith. In Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Eastern Poland this kind of bread is the main bread used in the wedding. According to the old traditions, karavai (korovai, kravai) was made on Saturday night before the wedding. Only those women who had children and lived a happy family life were allowed to bake the wedding bread. Those women were called karavainytsi ( korowajnice, korovainytsi) and they were believed to transmit their happiness to the young couple through the bread they baked. The bread blessing was a special part of the wedding ceremony that still exists and it has not lost its popularity in Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

karavai on the wedding table                karavai in Slavic countries

After the official wedding ceremony, the mother of the groom holds the karavai and gives it to the marrying couple as a blessing. Then the karavai should be divided and shared among the wedding guests. The top part of the karavai is for the groom and the bride, the next slice is for the couple’s parents and the bottom of the karavai is then given to all guests. Under the Russian wedding tradition, the bride and the groom should bite the karavai  and then compare the size of their pieces of bread. The one who has the bigger piece is believed to be the bossier person in the family.

In Greece they have provenda – a Greek sweet wedding bread whose taste reminds of the tsoureki (aka brioche grec) and which is mostly popular in the area of central Greece. The tradition states that the bride needs to “break” the provenda bread on her head with the help of a cloth in order to prove how “strong” she is to start a family. After this, the couple takes the pieces of the provenda and starts throwing them to the guests in order to receive their blessing.

In the Jewish wedding tradition, the braided bread is called challah  and is made of white flour with raisins or saffron.

challah

If you happen to be a guest at a Romanian wedding, you will taste the Romanian wedding sweet bread called turta miresei, which is torn apart over the bride’s head by the godparents of the marrying couple. In Tatarstan and Bashkortostan you can find gubadja (tat. гөбəдия), which is made with a rolled-in dough and contains rice, raisins and eggs.

Do you have the same blessing traditions in the weddings of your country? How is karavai it called in your language? Share it in the comments below and have a nice weekend!

 


Smirnova Olga

Written by Olga Smirnova, a Study Visitor at Terminology and Coordination Unit. She holds a BA in Linguistics from Tambov State University in Russia and she is currently doing MA in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. Native Russian speaker, speaks English and German and is currently learning French and Chinese. Her research interests include cognitive linguistic studies, multiculturalism and translation.

Sources:

  • Explore Italian Culture (2017) Italian Wedding Cakes – A Vital Ingredient Of Ancient Roman Weddings. Available at: http://bit.ly/2lJY6aE (Accessed 10 March 2017).
  • Wikipedia (2017) ‘Korovai’, Wikipedia. Available at: http://bit.ly/2msx3iR (Accessed: 10 March 2017).
  • Wedding and party (2017) Did You Know That Bread Is Part Of A Wedding Tradition? Available at: http://bit.ly/2m9Emtd (Accessed 10 March 2017).
  • Wikipedia (2017) ‘Challah’, Wikipedia. Available at: http://bit.ly/2mEa193 (Accessed: 10 March 2017).

 

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  • http://www.toraki.gr Katerina Toraki

    Very interesting information. People share similar traditions across Europe and across the time… May I add one more type of wedding bread from Greece. In Crete we call it kouloura gamou or gamokouloura (that is wedding ring-shaped bread roll). Very specially decorated kouloures are offered to bride and groom, but very often kouloures gamou are also offered to wedding guests.