One of our members at Emmanuel in London, Lucie Brear, has compiled a fantastic collection of recipes and suggested Scripture readings for advent. If you want to discover a traditional English way to prepare for Christmas, then just read on! I’ll post them here one week at a time. Here’s the fourth:
Christopsomo (Christ’s bread)
The baking of Christopsomo (literally, “Christ’s Bread”, in Greek Χριστόψωμο, pronounced hree-STOHP-soh-moh) is a sacred tradition in many Greek Orthodox homes. On Christmas Eve, traditional recipes for plain or sweet spiced bread are prepared with great care and using only the highest quality ingredients.
The rising process that the bread undergoes during its preparation is seen to be a representation of the rising of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. The top of the bread is often decorated with a large ‘X’, a reference to the first letter of Christ as it is spelled in Greek: Χριστός (Christos). A smaller symbol of a cross is also added to represent Christ’s death and resurrection. Representations of shepherds, sheep, oxen, wheat, etc. can also be found on these Christmas loaves.
Whilst the history of Christopsomo is shrouded in Orthodox mysticism – and its production often straying from the Christian representations described here – the bread should be looked on as a symbol of Christ’s headship of the church. (In some parts of Greece, Christopsomo is even broken on the head of the “head” of the household before it is eaten.)
Given the size of the Greek community in Southgate and the surrounding area of North London, we can be certain that this Christmas Eve, many of our neighbouring families will be baking Christopsomo together!
If you want to give this bread a go, here is a traditional recipe for you to try, from the Arta region of Greece:
- 1 kg (approx.) bread flour
- 7g pkt dried yeast
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp ground anise
- 1/2 tsp roasted and ground mahlepi (Greek spice)
- 2 tsp honey
- 80ml olive oil + some for pan
- 470ml warm water or more
For the decoration:
- blanched almonds
- sesame seeds
- Add the salt, sugar, anise and mahlepi to the flour and sift into a bowl.
- Dissolve the honey in approx. half the warm water.
- Dissolve the yeast in 230ml warm water and mix with 2 tbsp flour. When the yeast mixture is bubbly, mix in the olive oil, honey-water and 2 cups flour.
- Gradually add the remaining flour to form a dough, and knead for 10 to 12 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place for 2-2.5 hours.
- Remove a piece of dough and set aside for decoration.
- Punch down the larger piece of dough and shape it into a ball. Put it in an oiled pan. Place a walnut in the centre of the bread.
- Take the dough you’ve set aside and shape it into ribbons. Using a knife or scissors, make a large ‘X’ and place carefully on top of the bread. Form a cross shape below it using the almonds and cloves. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and let the dough rise again for another hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (non-fan).
- When the dough has risen, place in the centre of the oven and bake for 40-45 mins or until golden. Remove and cool on a rack.
Monday December 25: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)
Tuesday December 26, 2017: Psalm 148; Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15; Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60
Wednesday December 27, 2017: Psalm 148; Exodus 33:18-23; 1 John 1:1-9
Thursday December 28, 2017: Psalm 148; Jeremiah 31:15-17; Matthew 2:13-18
Friday December 29, 2017: Psalm 148; Isaiah 49:5-15; Matthew 12:46-50
Saturday December 30, 2017: Psalm 148; Proverbs 9:1-12; 2 Peter 3:8-13
Poem: Christmas (II)
The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sun
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n His beams sing, and my music shine.