The Sacredness of the Season in a Nutshell — the Mandorla

Posted on : December 21st, 2017

Christ in a MandorlaHave you ever seen the illuminated manuscripts of Medieval times that depict Jesus or Mary in an oval with a somewhat pointed top and bottom? That oval has a special significance. It is called the Mandorla and it means almond in Italian!

They were showing Jesus in an almond shell?!! Why?

In ancient times there was a sacred symbol called the vesica piscis, that showed an oval shape formed by the overlap of two circles as they approach each other. The symbolism varied but, generally, it was used to represent the intersection between two realms. In religious iconography it often meant the coming together of heaven and earth and, in Christianity, Jesus Christ or Mary were representatives of this concept in the flesh. By placing a religious figure in the almond-shaped center of the vesica piscis, the artist was attempting to depict this idea in a way people of that time would recognize and understand.

vesica piscisBut it goes further than that. Certainly, the center oval looks like an almond. But it had a more ancient meaning. The almond was the first tree to awaken and blossom, sometimes as early as mid-January, in Greece and Rome. It was, therefore, the symbol of the returning light, new life and fertility. So by using the mandorla symbol in Christian iconography near Winter Solstice time, early Christians were attempting to say that Jesus is the awakening of the life-giving light.


Italian Almond Cookies

This recipe from An Italian in My Kitchen Blog  reminded me of cookies I used to love at Christmas time! Just five ingredients and easy and quick to make. All you need to do is whip the butter with the sugar, add the rest of the ingredients (finely chopped almonds, flour and salt), form into a dough, make into crescent-shaped cookies and bake! 15 minutes later you take them out of the oven and dust them with powdered sugar. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea to go with them, listen to some Christmas music under the tree, and enjoy!

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