The Reason Behind the Rhyme of Jordan Almonds - | WBTV Charlotte

The Reason Behind the Rhyme of Jordan Almonds

There's more to discover about this candy than the almond inside. (© istockphoto/Raffaele Russo) There's more to discover about this candy than the almond inside. (© istockphoto/Raffaele Russo)

By: Dan Meade
Provided by WorldNow

Maybe this has happened to you when attending a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern wedding (most likely an Italian or Greek one):  you take your seat at the reception and see five white almonds in a box or bag next to your plate. They look pretty, are the same color as the wedding dress and taste good - but did you know they are part of a tradition that dates back more than 500 years and can be traced back to the days of the Romans?

Known as Jordan Almonds, the almonds are often given out in small bags or boxes, and sometimes have a version of this poem attached to them:

Five sugared almonds for each guest to eat
To remind us that life is both bitter and sweet.
Five wishes for the new husband and wife --
Health, wealth, happiness, children, and a long life!

This poem, which some attribute to Jill Girardo, sticks close to many of the traditional associations and practices surrounding Jordan Almonds. As with all traditions, the uses of Jordan Almonds are changing and evolving. To explain what these almonds are and where they come from, let's use this poem as a guide take a closer look at each line.

Five sugared almonds for each guest to eat

The use of Jordan Almonds can be found in celebrations from many Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cultures. One of the earliest associations of almonds with love can be found in ancient Greek lore.

In his translation of Ovid's Heroides, James M. Hunter of Edgewood College mentions the story of Demophoon and Phyllis. After the Trojan War, the two fall in love, but Demophoon has to sail away before their marriage, promising to return soon. When he doesn't return, Phyllis dies and is turned into an almond tree, but the tree will not bloom.  Demophoon eventually comes back for Phyllis, only to find out that she has died. When he embraces the almond tree that she has become, it blossoms into life. The blossoming of the almond tree can be seen to reflect their love and the strength of their bond, and its fruit has continued to symbolize love to this day.

One each for health, wealth, happiness, children, and a long life 
(© Lisa Spodak)

Traditionally, Jordan Almonds are given in odd numbered groups, most commonly in groups of five. Odd numbers are considered to be lucky in many cultures, but in Greek weddings, the odd number takes on another meaning. The almonds, called "koufetta" in Greek, are presented in odd numbered groups because an odd number is indivisible - just as the bond between the bride and groom is indivisible and unbreakable.

To remind us that life is both bitter and sweet.

Almonds, when seen in the context of wedding celebrations, have always been sweet, but not always sugary sweet. Jon H. Prince, President of, the Internet's largest candy store, has researched and written about the origins of Jordan Almonds. Prince writes that the almonds, known as "confetti" in Italy, were originally coated with honey in the days of the Romans. Confetti, which also could have consisted of dried fruit, seeds, or other nuts, only began coming into their current form, coated in sugar, around the fifteenth century when the trade system began readily delivering sugarcane to Europe.

Back then, confetti were more than just favors, they were delicacies held in such high regard that 260 pounds of confetti were served at the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia to the son of the Duke of Ferrara in 1487. Since then, these sweets have spread in popularity, and now can now be found for sale around the world.

The idea of life being both bitter and sweet echoes not only an almond (which has a bitter bite to it) coated in sugar, but also the wedding vow of "for better or worse." With one bite, you can taste how the sugar coating changes the bitter almond, and turns it into a candy - much as having someone sweet in your life can make bad times seem better.

Some brides coordinate their almonds to match their wedding colors
(© Dan Meade)

Five wishes for the new husband and wife -

Jordan Almonds may be most associated with husbands and wives, but they have always been used for other important occasions as well. Confetti Pelino & Bomboniera USA, makers of confetti and other kinds of "bomboniera" (favors) since 1783, produce these almonds for many occasions and in many varieties. They are made in the following colors, each representing a specific life-event:

  • White or Ivory for weddings and bridal showers
  • Silver for 25th anniversaries
  • Gold for 50th anniversaries
  • Light blue, white, ivory, or pink for baptisms, christenings and baby showers
  • Red for graduations
  • Green for engagements
  • Lilac for same sex marriages
  • Yellow for baby showers

This may be something to keep in mind if you plan to custom color your almonds to match the color scheme of your wedding.  You wouldn't want to hand out too many pink or yellow ones and give people the wrong idea.

In order to share the "five wishes" with each guest, the average bride who orders from will go through 10 pounds of confetti at her wedding.  If that seems like a lot of almonds, consider this: for a recent event in Manhattan, filled an order for $20,000 dollars worth of confetti - 150 pounds of each color!

Health, wealth, happiness, children, and a long life!

You couldn't wish more for newlyweds, could you? Throughout the ages, occasions, and continents, these five wishes have remained the strongest associations for each of the five traditional almonds.

As times and tastes have changed, from the advent of sugarcane in Europe to the progress of the Pelino family from an Italian shop in 1783 to a global brand in 2008, Jordan Almonds have stood the test of time and still can be found at weddings around the world.

Looking toward the future, the popularity of Jordan Almonds does not seem to be coming to an end. A new trend found at some weddings is to have a candy "bar," or station, of many different candies laid out buffet-style alongside the wedding cake or replacing pre-made wedding favors. These allow for a greater variety of desert options, or for guests to make their own favors. Jon H. Prince does not see trends such as this as a challenge to the use of Jordan Almonds. In fact, he went so far as to put it this way: "Having a candy bar without Jordan Almonds would be like serving a meal without a drink."

So the next time you receive a bomboniera of confetti at a wedding, just think - by popping the treats into your mouth, you're taking part in a 2,000-year-old tradition of celebrating life and love.

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