“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” Euripides
This is a long weekend in Greece with the holidays of Soul Saturday today, the Orthodox Pentecost on Sunday (Whitsunday) and the Holy Spirit Day on Monday (Whitmonday). “Psychosavvato” literally means “Saturday of Souls” and it is essentially a memorial day set aside by the church to remember and bless those in one’s family who are departed. Special masses in church are offered for the repose of their souls and it is customary to make “kolyva” on this day. The offering of kolyva as a memorial for dead relatives has its roots in ancient Greece but has been syncretised with the Christian teaching and incorporated fully with the religious traditions of Greece. Kolyva is a tray of sweetened boiled wheat which is a symbolic way of praying for the “blessed resurrection” of the deceased. It is based on Jesus’ teaching that compares the sowing of wheat grains with the Resurrection of all the dead in the second coming. In the context of the resurrection of Lazarus, St. John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
Kolyva is primarily made of boiled barley or wheat grains. It is then lightly dried and mixed with sweet tasting raisins, pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts and chopped glace fruits. The mixture is placed on a tray in a low mound that resembles a grave. Powdered sugar is used to cover it, with silver coloured dragées and sugared almonds used to inscribe a cross and the initials of the deceased.
The Kolyva is a symbol of our prayer that the deceased be blessed with a happy and sweet resurrection, since there is also the resurrection of judgment and eternal damnation. When one goes to a Memorial Service one should pray for the deceased during the mass. Afterwards, the kolyva will be distributed to all in attendance. As one eats it, one says “Theós schoréston” (“May God forgive him”) The “kollyva” gives substance to prayer and honours the deceased.KOLYVA RECIPEIngredients
2 cups of wheat berries
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of ground roasted yellow chick peas
1 cup of ground walnut meal
1/2 cup blanched, roasted almonds, chopped
1 cup of pomegranate grains
1/2 cup of sultanas
1/2 cup of glace, chopped citrus peel
1/2 cup chopped crystallised cherries
1/2 teaspoonful ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoonful ground cloves
1/2 teaspoonful ground mace
1/2 cup chopped continental parsley
Icing sugar to decorate
Silver dragées to decorate
Sugar almonds to decorateMethod
Rinse the wheat and place in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 5 cm, along with a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the wheat is tender and beginning to split but not mushy, about 1 and 3/4 hours. (Add more water to the pot when the liquid reduces to the level that the wheat no longer floats, and stir from time to time so the it doesn’t stick to the bottom.) Drain well and spread on a clean, linen, tea-towel and leave to dry for a couple of hours. Mix the wheat with the sugar and chick pea meal. Add the nuts, fruit, spices, parsley and mix well.
Pack well into a cling filled lined baking tray and refrigerate for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator, and drain off any liquid. Invert on an oblong platter and decorate with packed icing sugar all around, pressing well with a spatula. Outline the shape of a cross with the dragées and use the sugared almonds to decorate. The kolyva are blessed in church and distributed to the congregation.