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Breaking bread
作者:中国日报…    文章来源:中国日报-英语点津    点击数:75    更新时间:2017/2/2   

Reader question:

Please explain “broke some bread”” in this passage: At 5:30 we received a call that our first granddaughter was born. So we broke some bread in celebration. How sweet it is!

My comments:

To break bread is, literally, to tear a big loaf of bread into small pieces before eating them. This is necessary because even a small bread bun is usually larger than a mouthful.

Originally, the bread breaking expression comes straight from the Christian Bible, as The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms explains:

This term occurs in numerous places in the New Testament, where it sometimes means to share bread and other times to distribute food to others. In later usage it came to refer to the sacramental bread of Communion in Christian services. The latter survives in the spiritual hymn, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” [1300s]

Here is an example from the Bible (King James Version):

Acts 20:7 - And upon the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

And another one:

Matthew 26:26-29 - And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [it], and brake [it], and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.


Alright, in our example, the newly crowned grandparents were elated to hear that their first granddaughter was born. To celebrate her advent, they ate and drank – to their heart’s satisfaction, too, predictably.

They must have actually broken some bread, i.e. had some bread to eat, but it does not matter. In the idiomatic sense, if you break bread with someone, the two of you eat together. The two of you may have breakfast or dinner together to catch up, to talk about something or to just have a good time being in each other’s company.

Since this expression originates in religious circles, if you are Chinese and non-religious, you should probably use it sparingly and with care. In fact, as we Chinese dine and wine together, there usually are lots of foods and drinks involved, but often times without a loaf of whole-wheat bread, Western style. As everybody knows, we Chinese like to wine and dine together a lot. To describe such a dinner together, however, it’s enough, and more accurately too, to just say we are having a banquet.

In other words, a feast.

No more ado, here are media examples of people breaking bread together, both literally and figuratively:

1. An alternative to equally splitting the holidays on an annual basis is for one parent to arrange a family dinner on the weekend immediately before or following the holiday. For example, if a dad’s extended family lives out of town, Thanksgiving could be spent with mom, and dad could celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday meal the weekend following Thanksgiving. The key to successful holiday scheduling for divorced and separated parents is to plan in advance, to maintain a consistent level of flexibility and cooperation while consistently considering the least disruptive schedule for their children.

As unconventional as it may sound, some divorced or separated parents may consider celebrating part of the holidays together with their children. In even rarer situations, parents may agree to celebrate the holidays with their children and their extended families — made up of both divorced parents and their former in-law families all together. People are often shocked when they hear that divorced families celebrate holidays together as they did when they were married and living together. This arrangement occurs in the minority of divorced families and usually only works in families where the divorced parents are cooperative and high functioning in co-parenting their children. To break bread and manage to sit at the dinner table with your former spouse and his or her extended family members truly requires that parents be “grownups,” perhaps bite their tongues a bit and rise above the problems of their prior marriage. Divorced or separated parents that are able to celebrate holidays together as they did when they lived together as an intact family must be extremely “child-focused.” If there is the slightest chance for conflict between the parents or extended family members, opt for a different holiday custodial arrangement. There is nothing worse than spoiling a holiday or other celebratory time in a child’s life than participating in conflict, hostility and unnecessary drama. The last thing any parent wants to do is create a holiday memory filled with angst or argument as it will create a lasting impression for the children. For those parents that can agree to share the holidays, they should ensure that their children understand that mom and dad are just together to celebrate the holiday as a family, and it doesn’t mean that the parents are reconciling.

- Putting Children First: The Best Gift Divorced Parents Can Give Their Children This Holiday Season, HuffingtonPost.com, January 20, 2013.

2. Obi is a master’s student in the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs (EPGA) program. Here, she reflects on her experiences participating in the Truth Telling Project in Ferguson, Missouri.

Think about what you saw on the news about the events in Ferguson. You watched footage of riots and violent outbreaks in the streets. In reality, nothing can describe what it was really like to be in Ferguson at that time -- to meet and march alongside the people who call the town their home. That Ferguson was not captured on camera.

On my first night in St. Louis in March, I joined my professor, Barbara Wien, for a facilitator training meeting as part of a Truth-Telling weekend. After the meeting, we headed to downtown Ferguson to join in on a demonstration in front of the Ferguson Police Department.

Our procession walked a few hundred feet, circled back around, and then gathered in a parking lot across the street from the station. One of the leaders of the march had a bullhorn, calling for those who had been out protesting since the day that Mike Brown was shot to share their stories of why they were there.

It was here that I witnessed community level truth telling. Ironically, we were preparing for a weekend that took an immense amount of planning and diligence, yet in this moment, people came together with little effort to speak their truths.

One of the leaders mentioned that when you break bread with someone, you become a part of that person’s community. In Ferguson, we broke bread together, protested, marched, and sang. I learned more in that weekend about the power of a movement and its people in making change than any academic course could teach me.

Ferguson is the spark that the United States needs right now, and I stand in solidarity with its people -- and many others nationwide -- who are refusing to accept the system as it is.

No justice, no peace.

- Reflections on Civil Rights in Selma, Ferguson, and Baltimore, American.edu, May 14, 2015.

3. Carmelo Anthony didn’t have a whole lot to tell reporters Wednesday about his meeting with New York Knicks President Phil Jackson the previous day.

“The conversation was not that long. We didn’t break bread,’’ Anthony said. “We didn’t have hours of conversation. It was a short conversation.”

The conversation may have been short, but it probably wasn’t that sweet. When asked if he felt more on the same page as his boss by the end of their meeting, Anthony said rather cryptically: “We converse when we converse, we talk when we talk. I’ll leave it at that.’’

The meeting between the team’s president and star forward took place days after a column by Jackson confidant Charley Rosen was posted on Fanrag Sports, stating “Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York.”

But Carmelo said he didn’t ask if Rosen’s piece reflected Jackson’s feelings.

“No, at this point, I don't need to hear that,” Anthony said. “I don’t need to hear it was him or it wasn’t him. I didn’t read the article to be honest with you. I saw the headlines. I knew what it was from that point on.”

- Carmelo Anthony's conversation with Phil Jackson was short but might not have been too sweet, LATimes.com, January 19, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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