“Hi Mom, I have a question…”

by Sava

Last night my son, Jeb, called and said, “I just thought of something I haven’t had for a long time.I’d like to know what it is and how soon you can make it. It’s a grain, I think, and it is served in a paper cup and it has those little silver balls mixed into it. I think we get it at church. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

“Sure”, I said. “it’s called kolliva”.  I went on to explain that there is a special memorial service for the departed souls in the Greek Orthodox Church called Mnemosimon. After the Mass is read, a dish of boiled sweetened wheat kernels and fruits called kolliva, having been prepared by the family and blessed by the priest, is eaten at the church in remembrance of the dead. It is traditionally offered forty days after death and one year after death, the wheat germ symbolizing resurrection. This custom of bringing food to remember the dead dates back 5,000 years to Minoan Crete, and the Greek Orthodox Church has continued it by including it in their religious rituals.

 This wonderfully sweet mixture of wheat, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and fruit is delicious enough for one to want to eat it often, but it is only prepared to remember the dead and not served at any other time. When my son heard that, he said, “You mean I have to wait for someone to die to have it again?”

Custom – “a long-continued practice that is so established that it has the force of law”.

Sorry, Jeb.

See you next time…

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan March 24, 2010 at 6:19 am

Interesting as always-i always learn and am entertained by your articles-thanks!


Sava March 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Thank you, Dan. I hope you continue to check in from time to time.


Jo March 24, 2010 at 8:49 am

Remember the last time on our favorite island of Skopelos when our friend ,the Fish taverna owner,Fotini invited us for a special treat after her family’s Mnemosinon at her taverna???? It was a TALL glass of the liquid that the Kolliva had been boiled in. Never having heard of it nor tasted it ,we found it a challenge to actually swallow the viscous “treat”. Thankfully ,it was followed by a shot of Metaxa,heavenly Greek brandy,which helped the “treat” go down. We were honored, though, to have been invited ,since usually only the family members are entitled to this part of the ritual! Thank you ,Fotini! We hope to see you soon!


Sava March 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Yes, I remember that day fondly. You did a much better job of choking it down than I did! It was just awful stuff. Course it was just the water that the wheat was boiled in before all the sweets and yummy things are mixed into it (it’s probably really good for you…wheat water…who knew?). No wonder it was not delicious. It just goes to show you, that when you grow up with something like that, it isn’t necessarily as good to others as it is to you. It was sweet of Fotini to share it with us, though. I think it just shows how much she considers us ‘family’. We don’t see her often, but when we do it is such a wonderful reunion. The fact that we come back to her taverna every time we are in Greece means a lot to her and Georgo. It was also wonderful of her to take us up to their new house they built and tell us the next time we come we can stay for FREE! Hopefully she will remember, should we choose to stay there. It’s a little far for walking to the sea but the view is spectacular. So, yes, Fotini, we hope to see you soon.


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