Christians observe several traditions related to food, including fasting and feasts enjoyed during religious holidays. Certain foods, though, have sacred meaning. The sanctity of these foods often originate in their biblical use. Some of the foods' significance relies on their working together, such as milk and honey. All of the sacred foods have become symbols of Christian ideals.
Bread and Wine
Bread and wine relate to the Lord's Supper. According to tradition, Jesus Christ set aside wine and unleavened bread at his last supper with Christian disciples; He designated the wine and unleavened bread as memorials of his body and blood. Jesus commanded the disciples to remember him by eating bread, signifying his body, and drinking wine, signifying his blood; this sacrament is called the Eucharist or communion. A Catholic belief relating to the Eucharist is transubstantiation: When a validly ordained priest consecrates the bread and wine, Christ's body and blood become present in the substance of this food.
Milk and Honey
Milk and honey refer to the description of a promised land "flowing with milk and honey." People generally decipher this description to mean a fertile, wonderful land. Both milk and honey, though, have further significance. Honey is a delight, an appreciation of good and truth. As such, it is a reward. Milk is featured in a legend of the disciple Paul, who was beheaded by soldiers; according to the legend, milk rather than blood spurted onto the soldiers. Milk is thought to provide spiritual wisdom and perfection. Newly-baptized infants are fed milk and honey in the Bible; this is seen as an initial eucharistic meal.
Fish has significance as both a food and a symbol. During the first centuries after Christ, Christians used a fish symbol to denote secret meeting places and to identify friends. A fish still serves as a symbol of Christianity. The Bible contains references to fish, such as the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. Catholics traditionally abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, but they eat fish. In fact, some cultures eat fish as a festive meal. For example, on Christmas Eve, Italians traditionally partake of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, when seven kinds of fish are served.
Both an olive branch and olive oil have spiritual meanings for Christians. The olive branch serves as a symbol of peace. This comes from the story of Noah and the Ark, when a dove bearing an olive branch alerted him that the flood waters had receded. Olive oil has had lofty purposes. Biblical accounts exist of people in ancient times making sacred gifts to God of bread anointed with olive oil. Olive oil was used to anoint kings as well. According to ancient tradition, it is thought that the "tree of life" in the Garden of Eden was actually an olive tree.