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Christopsomo Marissa Herll

Setting the table:

Christopsomo, also known as Christmas bread, is a holiday bread made with butter, sugar, flour, and milk. Most often Christopsomo is seasoned with orange zest, Mastic resin or mahlab. This bread is considered a canvas that symbolizes good wishes, fertility, and prosperity. Christopsomo is decorated with dough shaped that represent animals, crops and the family. This sweet tasting bread originates from Greece and is traditionally made by the lady of the house. Even though Christopsomo is a dying art, many villages such as Peloponnese still continue to bake this delicious bread the day before Christmas and enjoyed on Christmas day. Preparing any type of bread requires the patience to allow it to raise several times. This bread contains many elements that most don’t typically think belong in bread. Depending on what recipe is used interesting ingredients such as orange juice, orange zest, coriander, red wine, brandy, mastic crystals, and anise seeds may be used. In Greece, bread is a major part of the table. It takes all morning to prepare to bake this celebration bread. The first step in making this tasty bread is stirring 2 Tablespoons of dry yeast with ½ cup of warm water and ¼ cup of flour. When mixture is dissolved clover and leave to rest all evening. Then the next day sift 2/3 of the remaining flour and add 1 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Next make a well in flour and pour in the yeast mixture, 1 cup of warm dry wine and ½ cup of warm water. Stir until soft dough forms, cover with plastic and a damp towel. Leave for 1 ½ to 2 hours to rise to double its size. When done rising punch down down and knead for several minutes or until any air pockets are gone. Next sift the remaining flour and add ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup orange juice, ¼ cup brandy, and 2 tsp grated orange zest. In another bowl, combine 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup pine nuts (or almonds), 1 Tablespoon mastic resin (or anise seed), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon cardamom once mixed well combined with the dough. Knead the dough until it is firm and not sticky. Cover again to rise for ½ hour. Line two 26 cm baking tins with parchment paper and brush lightly with oil. Shape bread into two circular loaves, a diameter of 8 inches. Keep a portion of the dough for decorating. One loaves are shaped allow to rise again. After the bread is risen create designs wanted. Place them on the top of the loaves. Cover with plastic, a dry cloth and a damp over that. Then place in a warm place to once again rise to double size. When ready to bake brush with milk and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C. and bake for around 1 hour and 15 minutes. When done baking remove from oven and cool. (Liacopoulou) Christopsomo is sacred for Orthodox Christians because Christ himself is referred to as the Bread of Life. This bread was a sacred way for the Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. While Christmas breads are common to the Christian Orthodox religions, the decorating of Christopsomo is unique to the Greek region.

Nutrition Facts:

Christopsomo is a Greek Christmas bread that appears at ancient Greek bread festivals. This bread was used as a bloodless sacrifice to the gods as a way to earn good favor from them. Because this bread was used in a sacrificial manner lots of care and effort is put into creating this beautiful bread. This delicious bread is made the day before Christmas by the woman of the house. It is only made with the best ingredients no matter if it is plain bread or spiced up with some unique ingredients such as orange or lemon zest (Gaifylla, 2018). Christopsomo is decorated with sculpted with dough figures of many different things. Some have Mary, Joseph, and Jesus depicted. While others have shapes, daisies, half moons, snakes, farm animals, and crosses (Orfanakos, 2014). It all depends on the bakers sculpting ability and wishes for the bread to look like. The depictions on top of Christopsomo may also have significant meaning to the family. Such as sculpting hens, oxen, sheep, dogs, and rooster to represent a shepherd's life. Most, if not all, Christopsomo have walnuts on the top of them and in some part of Greece white eggs are place in the middle. Walnuts are symbolic of fertility and virginity. The best and most impressive Christopsomo loaves of bread are said to be made by Sarakatsani. Sarakatsani are an ethnic Greek population that is traditionally transhumant shepherds that are native to Greece. They are said to be descendants of indigenous pastoralists or even descendants of Dorians, who were an isolated group in the mountains. Sarakatsani is a new modern name given to an old population that lived in isolations for centuries. They are from the area population that is today called Greece. Sarakatsani have distinct folks arts such as dance, song, and decorative wooden sculptures(Sarakatsani, 2019). They live in domed huts located in the summer months in the mountains and the plains in winter months. Their lives are centered around the care and needs of their flocks. Men and boys are in charge of protection of the flock along with shearing and milking them too. While the women are in charge of building goat pens, dwellings, taking care of children, and many other domestic chores (Sarakatsani, 2019). However, most Sarakatsani have been urbanized and abandoned their transhumant way of life. There are some unique traditions and customs that are associated with Christopsomo. Such as, loaves of bread in the shape of an 8 or the hand and leg of baby Jesus are given to children. There are parts of Greece that even make Christopsomo bread for the animals. Another common thing is to give a slice of Christopsomo bread to the first begger or stranger that comes to the house. Women take Christopsomo bread loaves to the cemetery to distribute it to the poor and pray for those that have departed from them. In certain parts of Greece, it is tradition to break christopsomo on the head of the “head of the household” (Orfankos, 2014). Christopsomo can be linked to the principles of individual well-being, social justice, environmental justice, and religious freedom. Not only do people eat this bread but they also only put the best quality of ingredients into it connecting it to the well-being of individuals. Since this bread has many symbols and meaning it to individuals it has a big link to wellbeing and religious freedoms. A group of people make this every year at the same time and celebrate sometimes together connecting it with social justice. Uniting groups and families in general is a major part of social justice and wellbeing. Christopsomo is a big deal in farming communities that harvest ingredients for bread. Meaning that they produce most of the ingredients linking it to environmental justice. The production of the ingredients are good for the environment and the animals all around. Plants produce take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. This dish is relevant to religious freedom because it is used as a sacrifice to the gods or in honor of the birth of Jesus. This bread is mainly seen only around the Christmas time of year. Another thing connecting Christopsomo to religious freedom is the decoration and the meaning behind the decorations. Most if not all Christopsomo bread have the Greek “x” over the top of it and a representation of Christ (Orfanakos, 2014). Some even have a depiction of the nativity. This bread is not restricted to one specific recipe there are many variations and each one brings mean to the family at Christmas time.

When creating this sweet and sour tasting bread, things started off on an unsure path. The initial recipe called for 16 cups of flour and made two loaves. So naturally, I cut the recipe in half.

It may have been user error but during the first step of the recipe, which says “Mix the yeast with ½ cup of warm water and ¼ of flour, stir until dissolved,” I took it as combining a ¼ all of the flour needed, the end result was this. However, I do not think that this in anyway ruined the final result

I let this round bread smelling flour and yeast balls sit covered overnight. The next morning I sifted ⅔ rds of the remaining flour into fluffiness over the top of that yeast mixture. Then I created a massive well in the the fluffy flour and poured in the very dry warm wine along with the warm water.

By adding the dry wine it gave it a unique color. I’m sure it added to the sweet and sour taste. When I mixed it into a more dough like consistency. I show that I may not have done the first step correctly by the appearance of little white clumps of the previous yeast mixture. Then like I will do several times throughout this baking process covering it allowing it to rise.

After an hour or two, this already delicious smelling bread had doubled in size. I knead the dough for a few minutes and then added some rather interesting ingredients. I added in a grated orange peel, orange juice, and brandy. I have heard of loaves of bread with beer in them but I had never heard of a bread with brandy, dry red wine, and orange juice. Then I put in all the ingredient that really spice up this bread and give it its a flavor in a bowl. I think the sugar, cinnamon, and anise seeds really brought a spicy but sugary flavor

For a final combination effort, I knead the spices and the dough together. Once again I set the dough aside for another ½ hour to an hour in order for it to rise from its compacted form. After it had doubled in bulk I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and oiled it up. I put aside a small portion of the dough so that I could use it to decorate the bread. I shaped the dough into a circular loaf. Again I had to be patient to allow this sweet bread to rise. After it another portion of time I started to make the braid that I used to decorate the loave. Making a dough bread looks easy when watching a Youtube video. However, it was a struggle to roll it into small strands. The sugar in the dough made it rather sticky but I still succeeded in making a beautiful dough braid. My dad was rather surprised that I managed to make the braid. I placed the braids on the circular loaf. To decorate it up a little more I added some delicious whole walnuts and for the last time, I set it aside to rise. Later I brush the bread shaped dough with milk and sprinkle sesame seed over the top. Now it is baking time!

While this bread was baking it filled my house with a rather rich sweet smell. It was rather hard to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for it to back when it smelt so good! When it was done I put it on a cooling rack and waited for it to be cool enough to eat. At first look, it didn’t seem to have the purplish color that I saw in the dough but when I cut it up I saw the purple. When I took my first bite my mouth was filled with the taste of cinnamon and sugar. Along with that, it had a bit of spiciness within it which I think came from the anise seeds. This bread is definitely more for a special occasion just because of the unique taste.

Indigestion:

When it comes to religion food plays a major part in how certain interaction occurs.Food is sacred in many religions. There are food restrictions in certain religions especially during specific times of the year. Such as Christian Catholics who fast from meat every Friday during the season of Lent and the Islamic community that fasts during Ramadan. There are also certain dishes that are made at festive times of the year. One such dish is Christopsomo which is a Christmas bread made by the Greek Orthodox Christians. This dish can be an ethical problem in contrast to our religious class themes.

While most would not see eating a loaf of bread as a negative aspect of one’s well-being. However, many people would disagree such as those with celiac disease and diabetic. This bread contains gluten which causes digestive issues for some people. Christopsomo also contains a wide variety of sugars and spices. Which can disrupt and alter the blood sugar glucose causing a major health problem. People with nut or certain spice allergies would also fall into the category that are not benefited in the well-being theme. I personally thought that this bread didn’t taste good, there were too many flavors for me to actually enjoy the taste.

This dish is made and celebrated with at the same time every year. For people who enjoy this bread, they may want to consume it at other times of the year. This may be looked down upon by those within the religion who find this bread to be sacred such as the Greek orthodox Christians (Orfanakos, 2014). The cost of creating Christopsomo also falls into this category. There are certain products that can not typically be found in an American grocery store because of some ingredients such as mastic resin are not produced in America. Mastic resin can be found in specialty Greek grocery store, which may be a long drive to find in some areas of America. Even if some ingredients are not hard to locate they may not be ones that are used frequently in one’s home.

Another one of the class themes is environmental justice. The transportation to obtain the ingredient whether at a local grocery store or a long drive to another city for a Greek store. The emissions that vehicles give off cause negative effects on the environment. There is even a chance that one drives an hour to a Greek store only to have to use a substitute ingredient that could be found at the local store. These ingredients come in different types of plastics such as bags and containers. They too also cause harm to our plant.

Our last theme is religious freedom. This version and many other versions Christopsomo contain various types of alcohol. Which in some religions such as Islam and Jain, the people are not allowed to consume any version of alcohol. A point made earlier that also applies to religious freedom is that people make this dish at Christmas time each year in celebration. They believe that this is the only time of year that it can be made. An Atheist may be offended if offered Christopsomo because this bread holds an idea of religious meaning.

In conclusion, Christopsomo can cause certain ethical situations that can be categorized in our class themes. Food is sacred to many but when present at the wrong time or even to the wrong person situations arise. Whether it be because of it containing certain ingredients that may affect one's wellbeing or the religious meaning behind it. Christopsomo can cause disagreement among many for different reasons. I personally have no problems with anything I have stated against this bread. I, however, did not enjoy the flavor of the bread and most likely will not make it very often.

Just Desserts:

I picked this dish because it was a Christian dish and I am a Christian. After making this Christmas bread I realize that the creation of good bread is rather difficult and needs the skill of patience. This bread is raised and molded many times which makes it hard to be patient with. This bread takes up most of the morning and can even lead into the afternoon. So, unless one can run errands in an hour or less than doing something outside the house is nearly impossible. This bread is special but there are other breads that are eaten every day in an ordinary setting. This bread showed me that something ordinary can be spiced up and changes into something special. It even showed me that something so normal can have so much meaning to certain people. When this bread is made around Christmas time and by Greek Orthodox Christians it has religious meanings. It contains many different elements that are in the religious and sacred nature to these people. Such as the many of the images and designs depicted on Christopsomo. Religion plays a role in the ingredients used, the design, the people that make it and the people who are brought together because of it.

References

Sarakatsani. (2019, January 28). Retrieved February 10, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarakatsani

Historyofgreekfood. (n.d.). CHRISTMAS BREAD. Retrieved February 10, 2019, from http://www.historyofgreekfood.eu/baking/christmas-bread/

Orfanakos, S. (2014, December 23). Christopsomo: An Ancient Christmas Tradition and a Modern Recipe - Blog - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Blog. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://blogs.goarch.org/blog/-/blogs/christopsomo-an-ancient-christmas-tradition-and-a-modern-recipe?p_p_auth=La1Ekl3N

Gaifyllia, N. (2018, December 14). Christopsomo: Greek Christmas Bread Recipe. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from https://www.thespruceeats.com/greek-christmas-bread-1705590

Kochilas, D. (n.d.). Christopsomo, Bread Full of Hope. Retrieved from https://www.dianekochilas.com/christopsomo-bread-full-of-hope/

Liacopoulou, I. (2019, January 07). Christopsomo - Christ's Bread. Retrieved from https://www.kopiaste.org/2007/12/christopsomo-christs-bread/

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