Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Greeting:  Kala Christougena ("Merry Christmas")
St. Nicholas Tradition: Hagios Nikolaos, the country's patron saint of sailors and fishermen.
Highlighted Custom: Christopsomo, "Christ Bread"
Happy St. Nicholas Day!  Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, an ancient city of Asia Minor (now in present-day Turkey), at the beginning of the fourth century. Bishop Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 (Maybe you recite the "Nicene Creed" at your church? more information here)

St. Nicholas and the Three Poor Girls, by Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis. Today, children in many countries eagerly await gifts from St. Nicholas. In this memorable story, the saint's humble, secret charity surprises three sisters and saves them from a terrible fate. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appears in their home - providing much needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed by Nicholas through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.  The book and gold foil wrapped coins are available from Paidea Classics. (type "gold coins" into the search box for different flavors and packaging.)

At Christmas, to honor St. Nicholas, many small fishing boats are decorated with blue and white lights (which are also the colors of the Greek flag).
On Christmas Eve, large groups of family and friends gather for a festive dinner.  Dried figs are served with the spicy golden Christopsomo bread.  The large sweet loaves are decorated with a cross or other shape.  Before the meal begins, the sign of the cross is made over the bread, and the table is lifted three times.
Christopsomo, "Christ Bread"
Recipe HERE

Christmas morning usually starts with an early liturgy at Greek Orthodox churches all over the island. "Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages." (Kontakion Hymn of the Nativity)

After church, groups of children go from house to house, singing carols (watch the cute YouTube video below).  They are met with something sweet to eat or a small gift.  The word "carol" comes from the Greek word choaulein, a combination of choros, or "dance", and aulein, "to play the flute". (Doesn't that sound like an explanation from the dad, in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding?)

In Greece, Christmas gifts are exchanged on January 1st, St. Basil's Day.  This saint, one of the four Fathers of the Greek Church (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa are collectively referred to as the "Cappadocian Fathers") is suppposed to visit all the Greek homes on the first day of the year, bearing gifts and toys. Vasilopita, "Sweet Bread of Basil" is prepared and a coin is baked into the ingredients. The person who gets a slice that contains the coin is considered blessed for the New Year. (recipe HERE)

Sources for my Christmas Around the World posts:

St. Nicholas Center: www.stnicholascenter.org

1 comment:

  1. Happy St Nicholas day to you, too. I love that icon! Our priest (who was Greek, but followed the old calendar) used to do that bread with the coin in it...what a nice tradition!!!