It was Christmas. I was twenty three, trying to make The Euro jealous and dating a man named Alex. Alex was from Volimes, a village on the island of Zakynthos. He was six years older than me, brain crushingly beautiful and an absolute ass. But he was a fantastic cook when I could only afford supermarket ramen.

In Greece the Christmas Fast is broken on Christmas Eve with Christopsomo, or the “bread of Christ.” It’s meant to be a round loaf with a very subtle licorice flavor but I use standard loaf pans and, not being a fan of licorice, I leave out the mastic gum (the dried resin of a Mediterranean tree which gives it the licorice taste) and add currants. (Recipe)

Traditionally the bread is decorated with strips of dough in an early form of the cross, or X, with ends that split or curl into circles. The Greek letter X, or chi, is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ and was used as an early abbreviation. Hence the word Xmas. The baking of the bread is a sacred tradition in Greek Orthodox homes and the care with which it’s made is said to ensure the well-being of the home in the year to come.

Read: The Odyssey, Homer

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