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The Epiphany and the Cretan Fotokoliva


In Christianity, the period starting from the 25th of December, the day of Christmas, till the 5th of January is called the Twelvetide, meaning the twelve days of Christmas. During this festive season period, the annual celebration of the nativity of Jesus Christ takes place, which is concluded with the commemoration of His Baptism in the Jordan River at the day of the Epiphany. While we have read almost everything about Christmas customs and culinary delights of that period, throughout every little corner of Greece, only few it is known about the day of Theophaneia and its respective old and traditional creations.

One such custom is that of fotokoliva in Crete. The 5th of January, the Paramony of the Theophaneia (meaning the day before), was considered as a very important day for the rural families of Crete as, according to religion that night the sky miraculously opened up and farm animals could talk in human voice. That was a God’s intervention in order for the animals to be able to inform God if their masters were taking care of them as they should be and if they were happy living with them. Thus, the day of the Epiphany God would ask the animals about their masters and He should hear no complains.

For this reason, at the day before Theophaneia the farmers used to prepare the fotokoliva, a mixture of various legumes that were all boiled together and comprised the food for both humans and animals that day. Furthermore, the farmers and their families had to also feed the birds by throwing some of the fotokoliva at the fields and farmlands, as well as at the corners of their houses and the streets. Anything wasn’t consumed during that day, it was used as a salad to the festive table of the next day, where meat was necessary.

Fotokoliva is a mix of garbanzos,wheat, lentils, fava beans and regular beans, all boiled together (garbanzos and wheat need more time in preparation than the other legumes) to form a special type of soup. It is served with lemon and Cretan olive oil and it is garnished with fresh onions and dill.


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