November and December are my favorite months. I love the smell of spices and cinnamon, the relief of the (finally) dropping temperatures here in Texas, and the twinkling of Christmas lights on a real Christmas tree. And, of course, it’s gift giving season. I’m not a big gift giver: my mom, the biggest lover of gift-giving that ever existed, knows every year I’m going to press her to focus more on experiences and less on stuff. But of all the tangible gifts, food gifts are my absolute favorite. And honey is one of the very few foods that has a storied history of giving around the world. Today I want to share some of the unique ways and reasons that honey is considered such an important gift in so many cultures.
A monkey and an elephant walk into a forest….
The Honey Full Moon Festival (Madhu Purnima) is a Buddhist festival celebrated by people of Bangladesh and Thailand in August/September. The day celebrates the day that the Buddha visited the Parileyya forest to bring peace to two warring groups of people. A monkey and an elephant brought the Buddha food: the elephant bearing fruit and the monkey bearing honeycomb. The monkey was so excited when the Buddha accepted his gift he began excitedly jumping around and fell to his death from the tree. On this day the quarreling stopped and the now peaceful people visited the Buddha to take a vow of unity. Today, the day is honored by Buddhists who bring gifts of honey and fruit to shrines and monasteries. Oh, and that monkey? Don’t worry about him. He was rewarded by being reborn as a god in Buddhist heaven, known as Tavatimsa. (What are the chances one lady beek from Austin, Texas, who has been slinging honeycomb to the uninitiated for 8 years, gets the same treatment?)
Cheers to a sweet year!
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is one of Judaism’s holiest days. Falling in September or October each year, observant Jews use Rosh Hashanah as a time for prayer, good deeds, and making amends with others. Today, one of the most popular customs during Rosh Hashanah involves eating apples and honey. Ancient Jews believed apples had healing powers and enjoying honey represents the hope for a sweet new year.
If all else fails, just get drunk
And, for my favorite….in the 5th century in Scandinavia, an alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey, mead, was consumed during wedding celebrations as a toast to the newly married couple. The couple was then given enough mead for one month’s time, because mead is considered an aphrodisiac and the intent was that the couple would conceive their first child during this month. Many believe this is where the term honeymoon originated, since couples are given a “moon’s’ worth of honey wine to enjoy just after the wedding! (To all my guests that attended my wedding a few week’s ago: my apologies for missing the mead memo. I hope the copious amounts of prickly pear margaritas did the trick. As a woman with one surprise pregnancy under her belt, I didn’t dare risk another.)
Why food makes the best gifts
One of our most important core values is Storytelling over Stuff. Who doesn’t love a gift? But I love a shared experience so much more than anything that I can stash on a shelf. This is why I love food as gifts, because it is a tangible thing that can be wrapped, but it is a sensory experience from start to finish. Sharing a favorite food, a food with a cherished history or story, or just something new and interesting that one maybe has never tried is such a special way to gift. And honey is unique in that it is one of the few foods we find shared all over the world, no matter the country. But no two honeys are the same–whether it is a single or multi floral honey unique to one terroir, or a unique infusion created and inspired by one beekeeper, honey gifts never get old.
I hope you will consider us for your gift giving needs, no matter the time of year. You can visit us at the Honey Bar at the Honey Ranch or shop our online shop for gifts shipped anywhere in the continental U.S. And remember, when you gift a gift from a small business, your impact on that business is doubled. You support us with your initial purchase, and then by sharing us with your loved ones, introduce us to another that may have never heard of us or what we do. Gifting from your small favorite business is really a gift that keeps on giving.