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The traditional cake/bread, served on Zákynthos on Christmas Eve, made with 15 ingredients including olive oil, red wine, raisins, pine nuts and walnuts, cinnamon, clove and anise, orange juice and zest—with an ηύρεμα, (évrema or ‘finding’)—a gold or silver coin—baked inside. It symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem.

At dinner—where the traditional meal is boiled broccoli (fasting before taking communion on Christmas morning), the still warm kouloúra is placed in the centre of the table on a large platter.

The oldest man in the family takes the platter; everyone in the family grips an edge, and together they pass it over the fireplace (where the logs are laid in the shape of a cross, symbolizing Adam and Eve in hell), singing hymns. They make the sign of the cross over it three times, then pour olive oil and red wine on top; this symbolizes the gifts of the Magi and the redemption of Adam and Eve.

Back at the table, the oldest member of the family slices it. The first piece is for baby Jesus, but the rest is passed around, and whoever finds the coin in their slice will have good luck. Someone will go outside with their rifle and take a shot in the air, shouting για τον Ηρώδη! ‘Take that, Herod!’

Desserts, pastries and sweets

Ionian Islands

Text © Dana Facaros

Image by Zante today