January 2009 Newsletter
 This Month 
January's Article: Greek New Year Traditions Special Feature: Ancient Greek Pottery
Latest Arrivals: New Table Linens, Books and More! Featured Destination: Kalymnos
What's New: Music and Movies, Modern and Classic January's Recipe: Kéik Me Banána (Banana Cake)  
Saint Namedays in January Suggestions, Comments, Subscription Info
January's Recipe:
Kéik Me Banána
(Banana Cake)

 

Ingredients:
 
4 ripe bananas, peeled
1 Tbs. cognac
2 generous cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla essence
1 1/4 c. butter
1 generous cup sugar
4 eggs
 
For the sauce:
1 cup (200g) butter
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 2/3 (400 ml) light cream
 
1. Preheat oven to 350 ºF (180 ºC). Place the bananas in a saucepan, pour in 3 Tbs. water and the cognac, and bring to a boil. Mash the bananas.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the banana mixture, and mix well.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla essence, and eggs in a mixer until creamy, then add the banana mixture.

4. Pour the cake mixture into a well-greased square baking pan. Bake for one hour, until it turns brown.

5. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar in it, heating until the sugar caramelizes. Add the cream and bring to a boil briefly.

6. Turn out the banana cake and cut it into slices. Place each slice on a separate plate and drizzle a little sauce over each. Enjoy hot or cold!


 
Excerpts from: Culinaria Greece by Milona, Marianthi
Feature Article
Greek New Year Traditions
 

In Greece, New Year is perhaps even more festive and important then Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving. It is a time of hope and promise, and it is also St. Basil's Day. St. Basil (Vassilios) was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church, and he is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. Stories of his kindness to children are shared at this time, remembering how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes. There is always much visiting, feasting, and music to be enjoyed.

There are many special dishes that are prepared at New Year but the most important dish is Vasilópita (or St. Basil's cake) (read more about it further down on the page). As well as the cake, there is usually an abundance of food on the table including Kourabiedes (Greek shortbread) and Thiples (wafer-thin honeyed phyllo spirals). Also, there is always honey on the table, and olive-branches, nuts, fresh fruit, and other symbols of happiness and wealth.

On New Year’s Eve and New Years Day the children sing carols. The first person across the threshold of the house on New Year's Day is said to bring the family good luck throughout the coming year. The father, son or a lucky child was meant to be the first person across the threshold. A lucky child was someone who has both parents still alive.

 


Although the word "gouri" is associated with anything that brings good luck, it is traditionally a Greek New Year's gift. According to Greek superstitions, a good luck charm cannot be bought but rather given as a gift from someone. This is why the Gouri is a symbolic gift exchanged between family members, friends, or business associates, wishing the recipient good luck in the New Year.
Four-leaf Clover Gouri New Year
Four-leaf Clover Gouri
New Year's Goodluck Charm
Sail Boat Gouri New Year
Sail Boat Gouri
New Year's Goodluck Charm
Horse-shoe Gouri New Year
Horse-shoe Gouri
New Year's Goodluck Charm
Key Gouri New Year
Key Gouri
New Year's Goodluck Charm
Coin Gouri New Year
Coin Gouri
New Year's Goodluck Charm
 
Trireme (Ship) Gouri New Year
Trireme (Ship) Gouri

New Year's Goodluck Charm


 Special Feature
 Ancient Greek Pottery
 
All ancient cultures produced pottery; among them, Greek ceramics distinguish themselves by their quality and the particular nature of their decoration, which establishes their connection to painting. The Greeks elaborated a type of decoration centered on the human figure very early on. From the geometric in the 8th century BC and the motifs which give their name to this style (meanders, circles, chevrons, etc.), one sees the image of man appear, in combat or at the time of funerals. The so-called Orientalizing style, in the 7th Century, moves away for a time from these types of subjects, instead favoring animal and floral decoration. As Athens asserted itself in the Mediterranean world at the end of the 7th century BC, it revived a type of pottery founded on a technique of black figures (the black silhouettes stand out on a background of red clay), and then, in the 5th century, one of red figures (they are left unpainted, or reserved, on a background of black glaze). This Attic production alone has left us more than 80,000 vases.

Not all ancient Greek vases were purely utilitarian; large Geometric amphorae were used as grave markers, kraters in Apulia served as tomb offerings and Panathenaic Amphorae seem to have been looked on partly as objects of art. Some have a purely ritual function, for example white ground lekythoi contained the oil used as funerary offerings and appear to have been made solely with that object in mind. Many example have a concealed second cup inside them to give the impression of being full of oil, as such they would have served no other useful gain. Most other surviving pottery, however, had a practical purpose which determined its shape. The names we use for Greek vase shapes are often a matter of convention rather than historical fact, a few do illustrate their own use or are labeled with their original names, Visit our Ancient Greek Pottery Collectionothers are the result of early archaeologists attempt to reconcile the physical object with a known name from Greek literature – not always successfully. To understand the relationship between form and function, Greek pottery is commonly divided into four broad categories: storage and transport vessels; mixing vessels; jugs and cups; and vases for oils, perfumes and cosmetics. Within each category the forms are roughly the same in scale and whether open or closed, where there is uncertainty we can make good proximate guesses of what use a piece would have served.

Ancient Greek Pottery Techniques

Geometric Pottery
Geometric Plate Dim. 30 cmGeometrical art flourished in the 9th and 8th centuries BC. With the early geometrical style (approximately 900-850 BC) one finds only abstract motifs, in what is called the “black dipylon” style, which is characterized by an extensive use of black varnish, with the middle geometrical (approx. 850-770 BC), figurative decoration makes its appearance (geometric-shaped human bodies in detail, soldiers holding shields, etc.), which first depicted bands of animals (horses, stags, goats, geese, etc) which alternate with the geometrical bands. In parallel, the decoration becomes complicated and becomes increasingly ornate; the painter feels reluctant to leave empty spaces and fills them with meanders or swastikas. This phase is named “horror vacui”, and lasts until the end of geometrical period. At the end of the period there appear representations of mythology - gods and goddesses portraying historical scenes, usually in groups and performing specific notable activities.
 
Greek Black Figure Pottery
Black Figure Amphora Hgt. 30 cmThe black-figure pottery ('μελανόμορφα, melanomorpha) technique is a style of ancient Greek pottery painting in which the decoration appears as black silhouettes on a red background. The pale, iron-rich clay turned a reddish-orange color when fired, and then the design was sketched in outline and filled in using refined clay as paint. Details would be added with an engraving tool, scratching through the paint layer to the clay below. Originating in Corinth during the early 7th century BC, it was introduced into Attica about a generation later. Other notable black-figure potteries existed at Sparta, Athens, and in eastern Greece. The technique flourished until being practically replaced by the more advanced red-figure pottery technique in 530 BC, although later examples do exist.
 
Red Figure Pottery
Red Figure Kylix ( wine cup ) 15 cm Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural Greek vase painting. It developed in Athens around 530 BC and remained in use until the late 3rd century BC. It replaced the previously dominant style of black-figure vase painting within a few decades. Its modern name is based on the figural depictions in red color on a black background, in contrast to the preceding black-figure style with black figures on a red background. Red figure is the reverse of the black figure technique. After the unfired vessels had dried to a leathery, near-brittle texture, paintings were applied. In Attica, the normal un-burnt clay was of orange color at this stage. The outlines of the intended figures were drawn either with a blunt scraper, leaving a slight groove, or with charcoal, which would disappear entirely during firing. Then, the contours were redrawn with a brush, using a glossy clay slip (a liquid clay and mineral mixture).
 
White Ground Technique
White Ground Oenochoe Hgt. 15 cmDeveloped at the end of the 6th century BC, the white-ground technique was unlike the better-known black-figure and red-figure techniques. Its coloration was not achieved through the application and firing of slips but through the use of paints and gilding on a surface of white clay. It allowed for a higher level of polychrome than the other techniques, although the vases end up less visually striking. The technique gained great importance during the fifth and fourth centuries, especially in the form of small lekythoi (likythos) that became typical grave offerings.
 

Greek Vases - The Athenians and Their Images (In English)

Learn it all...

With 240 pages, including 147 beautiful color photographs and 33 line illustrations, this extraordinary hardcover, linen-bound book seeks to explain the images within, and to help the reader understand both the context in which they were used and the significance of the figures which appear on these ancient Greek vases. All the different aspects of Athenian culture and society are considered, with an emphasis on their visual treatment. The vase painters did not attempt to reproduce reality; they staged it, through a series of choices each of which had its own social and aesthetic logic. Each image summoned up another, and was clarified by it. This network of imagery is examined and explained in the book's major themes: the banquet, sex, athletics and competitions, war, domestic life, relationships between men and the gods, Herakles as an exemplar of the Greek hero, the mythic identity of Athens, and the special place of Dionysos. The visual story presented here is both informative and entertaining. All those interested in Greek culture and art will find it compelling, as will those interested in the formal study of images and image-making. Included in the appendices are essays on the rediscovery of Greek vases in the modern era and on artists and attributions, as well as a table of vase shapes, an informative glossary, and a comprehensive bibliography.

The rites of passage, weddings, funerals, and religious aspects of life and their representations are captured within the meticulous artwork displayed on these vases, which gives them an important ritual role. Then comes the representation of the sacrifice, which sets up the relationship between men and gods. Finally, the mythical dimension of Greek culture is addressed, with Herakles, the hero above all heroes; then other specifically Athenian myths, before coming to Dionysos, whose place on drinking vases is essential. This route is framed, by way of prologue and epilogue, with an analysis of two particularly rich and complex kraters: the "Francois Vase" in the opening, dating from around 570 BC, and in the closing, the "Krater of Pronomos," from the 410's BC; situated at the chronological limits of the period discussed here (essentially the 6th and 5th centuries BC in Athens), these two vases allow us to concretely introduce the question of image and its medium, its material and cultural context.

This anthology, composed to please the eye, seeks to make perceptible and intelligible these objects which were not made to illustrate Athenian life but which convey the visual way of thinking and experiencing through many aspects of this society were aestheticed, as though the painters held a mirror to the Athenians themselves.

 New Year's Cake!


Vasilópita (or St. Basil's cake) is a sweet nut cake with a coin hidden inside, traditionally served on New Year's Eve, when families honor Saint Basil (St. Vasilios, or Santa Claus), who comes down to earth on that day. Vasilópita can be made as a Madeira sponge or a puff pastry cake with nuts, or in a savory version with meat.

The New Year Cake came from the story about Saint Basil who it is said told how he helped the poor people to pay their taxes. According to the story, he took some jewelry from each person and gave it to the Governor. The Governor was sorry for the poor people and so he gave the jewelry back, they only problem was Basil did not know who owned each piece of jewelry. This is when it is told the miracle occurred. He baked each piece inside a loaf and when the loaves were given out, everyone had their own jewelry in the piece of loaf.

Today, a gold coin (flouri) is hidden inside the cake after baking, and the cake is cut on New Year's Eve with all the family present. The pieces are distributed in a predetermined order: the first is for Christ, the second for Mary, the third is for St. Vasilios, the fourth for the house, the fifth for the head of the family, the sixth for the mother, then one for each of the children. A piece is also cut for each absent member of the family. Whoever finds the coin can look forward to special success in the coming year.

New Year
New Year's Cake Gold Coin Replica
- Flouri for Vasilopita

Click here for the recipe...

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  Featured Destination: Kalymnos

Kalymnos BayGEOGRAPHY: Between Kos and Leros lies the fourth largest of the Dodecanese, Kalymnos. It is 111 sq. km. in area, has 96 km. of coastline, a population of 14,295 and is 183 nautical miles from Piraeus. Passenger and car ferries link Kalymnos with Piraeus, the Cyclades and Crete. The boat on the Piraeus-Kavala route to the outlying islands connects it with Melos, Pholegandros, Santorini, Anaphi, Crete, the other islands of the Dodecanese, as well as those of the north Aegean. There is a local boat to Rhodes, Symi, Telos, Nisyros, Kos, Leros, Leipsoi, Patmos and Samos and a frequent service to Kos, Pserimos, Leros and Telendos. Via Kos there is an air link with Athens. Kalymnos is a mountainous island comprising three more or less parallel ranges extending from northwest to southeast, between which lie two fertile plains on which the two main villages are located, Vathy (north) and Kalymnos (or Pothia) (south). The island's other villages are built on the west coast and the northern part of the island is virtually uninhabited. The configuration of the coastline follows that of the terrain and is markedly indented with many bays and coves. The main town is a good starting point for visiting the island's villages and other places of interest Many Kalymnians are still involved in spong diving, for which it was formerly renowned. There is little touristic development and visitors to Kalymnos must be prepared for a quiet holiday with only basic amenities.

HISTORY: The island has been inhabited since Neolithic times and during the Bronze Age (circa 1000 BC) there was a culture strongly influenced by that of Crete, as evident from finds at Vathy and Emboreion. The first inhabitants seem to have been Karians from the coast of Asia Minor, succeeded by Dorians in 1000 BC or thereabouts. Throughout antiquity Kalymnos was closely linked with Kos and the littoral of Karia opposite. In the mid-5th century BC it was annexed by Artemisia, queen of Karia, to whom it was subject. It then became a member of the Athenian League, belonged to the Egyptian ptolemies for a brief interval, and from the middle of the 3rd century BC was united with Kos. Aftert Roman conquest it belonged to the province of Asia and in Byzantine times to the Thema of the Aegean. During this period the Kastelli, a mighty fortress, was built on the island. In 1204 it passed to the Venetians and, shortly afterwards, to the Knights of St. John who built the castle at Chorio, Pera Kastro or Kastro tis Chrysocherias. Between 1522 and 1912 it was subject to the Turks and then occupied by the Italians. Kalymnos became part of the Greek state, like the other isles of the archipelago, in 1948.

Kalymnos Island MapSIGHTS - MONUMENTS: The island's capital, Kalymnos (Pothia), also its main harbor, was built in about 1850 when the inhabitants abandoned the former capital village of Chorio. Excavations have shown that Pothia was inhabited in antiquity. The present town, a mixture of old and new buildings, many of them brightly colored, is charming to behold. Chora (or Chorio), 3 km. northwest of Pothia, is a much older settlement and there stands the ruined castle, built, according to tradition, by the Knights of St. John on the site of the previous Byzantine stronghold. Material dating from the 4th century BC and Hellenistic times is preserved in its now destroyed interior. There is another medieval castle to the north of Pothia, Pera Kastro, also known as the Kastro tis Chrysocherias after the church within its enceinte, where there is an icon of the Virgin with gilded hands. At the foot of the hill on which the castle stands is a small chapel of Christ and three disused windmills. Finds from excavations indicate that there was a settlement in the area in Mycenaean times. Northeast of Pothia is the cave of Epta Parthenon (Seven Virgins) or of the Nymphs, a place of cult in antiquity from which various votives have been recovered, and even Neolithic tools. On the road between Chorio and Panormos is the church of Christ of Jerusalem, the most important monument on Kalymnos, dated to the 6th century. A three-aisled basilica built mainly of ancient architectural material, this church stands on the site of the ancient sanctuary of Delian Apollo, which must have been particularly important judging from the finds and inscriptions found here. There is another basilica to the southeast, with a mosaic floor similar to that in the church of Christ. In its foundations a marble torso of a statue of Asklepios was discovered, now on display in the museum at Pothia, along with finds from other ancient sites on the island. The museum housed in a Neoclassical building in which, apart from the archaeological artifacts, there is the original decoration and furniture. At Damos, north of the village, a Hellen cemetery has been revealed, as well as foundations of houses and traces of walls, evidence of the presence of an important ancient city. Throughout the region, as far as the gulf of Arginota, there are ancient remains in abundance, indicative of a significance in those days. There are remnants of fortificaions at Xirokampos, Vryokastro, Anginaries, while at Kastri parts of two Hellenistic towers have survived. Included among the island's places of interest is the cave of Skalia or Daskaleio with its rich decoration. The churches of St. Nicholas at Skalia, an Early Christian basilica at Myrties and the chapel of St. John t Melitzacha are all of interest. There are remains of a medieval fortress at cape Asprounti, known as Kastelli or Palaiokastro. The church of the Holy Apostles, south of Chorio, is reputed to have been founded in the 11th century. Southwest of Pothia is the Kefala cave, also with elaborate formations. It was a It cave in antiquity and later a refuge for rates. Access to the cave is easiest by caique m the sea. On the southeast side of the island is the most fertile valley, Vathy, with the village of the same name and two hamlets, Metochi and Rina. Neolithic finds have been recovered at Vathy. On the slopes of mount Kyra Psili stands the monastery of the Virgin Kyra Psili and a ruined fortification. In the area between Vathy and Metochi numerous traces of buildings of Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times can be discerned. There is a Postbyzantine church of the Taxiarch (17th century) near Metochi and at Rina, with its charming little harbor, the church of the Virgin Chosti, dated to the 11th or 12th century and other Byzantine remains. In contrast to the southern part of the island, the north is virtually uninhabited and the sole village is Emboreios (20 km. northwest of Pothia). The church of St. Peter at Palaionisos, southeast of Emboreios, is of interest on account of its wall-paintings. One of the loveliest beaches on Kalymnos, Masouri (9 km. northwest of Pothia) has developed into a tourist center, that at Myrties (7 km. northwest of Pothia) is fringed by greenery and pretty summer cottages, while the seemingly endless beach at Panormos (5 km. northwest of Pothia) is surrounded by verdant countryside. There are other good beaches to the south of Pothia and at Vlychadia on the south coast there are therapeutic springs. Regular trips are organized from Kalymnos to the nearby islet of Pserimos and from Myrties frequent excursions to Telendos. On both islets there are delightful beaches. Apart from swimming one Kalymnos Island Mapcan go fishing or enjoy sea sports off the shores of Kalymnos and there is game in its interior. Accommodation is available in hotels, pensions, rooms or apartments. Refueling station at Pothia.

Telendos
Just 700 m. off the west coast of Kalymnos, opposite Myrties, is the tiny islet of Telendos with about 90 inhabitants, mainly fishermen who live around its harbor. Up until the 6th century BC it was joined to Kalymnos and only became an island after the earthquake of 535 BC. On mount Aghios Konstantinos, on its north side, stands a chapel of St. Constantine and a ruined medieval castle. Telendos, which can be reached by caique from Kalymnos, has several lovely beaches on its west shore. A few rooms are available for those wishing to stay here.

Pserimos
A small island southeast of Kalymnos with a population of only 72, it is an idyllic spot for those seeking isolation. Caiques from both Kalymnos and Kos make excursions to the island which has many sandy beaches and lots of yachts drop anchor here. There is a hospice in the monastery of the Virgin and a handful of rooms to let.

 January 2009 Greek Orthodox Calendar

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
        1
Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia

Circumcision of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Gregory, Bishop of Nanzianzos, Father of Gregory the Theologian
 
2
Forefeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Sylvester, Pope of Rome

Cosmas, Archbishop of Constantinople
3
Saturday before Epiphany

Malachi the Prophet

Gordios the Martyr of Caesarea
4
Sunday before Epiphany


Synaxis of the 70 Holy Apostles

Theoctistos the Righteous of Sicily
5
Eve of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Martyrs Theopemptos and Theonas

Righteous Syncletiki of Alexandria
 
6
The Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Theophan the Recluse
7
Synaxis of John the Holy Glorious Prophet, Baptist, & Forerunner

Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
8
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

George the Chozebite

Domnica the Righteous of Constantinople
9
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Polyeuctos the Martyr of Meletine in Armenia

Eustratios the Wonderworker
10
Saturday after Epiphany

Gregory of Nyssa

Dometian, Bishop of Melitene
11
Sunday after Epiphany


Righteous Theodosios the Cenobiarch

Vitalis of Gaza
12
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Tatiana the Martyr of Rome

Martyr Mertios
13
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Hermylos & Stratonikos the Martyrs at Belgrade

Maximos the Righteous of Kapsokalyvia, Mount Athos
 
14
Leavetaking of the Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

The Holy Fathers slain at Sinai and Raitho

Agnes the Virgin-martyr
15
John the Cave Dweller

Paul of Thebes

Pansophios the Martyr of Alexandria
16
Veneration of Apostle Peter's Precious Chains

Righteous Hierodeacon Makarios of Kalogeras
17
Anthony the Great

Anthony the New of the Berropas Skete

George the New Martyr of Ioannina
18
12th Sunday of Luke


Athanasios & Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria

Zenia the Martyr
19
Makarios the Great of Egypt

Mark, Bishop of Ephesus

Arsenios, Metropolitan of Kerkyra
20
Righteous Euthymios the Great

Zacharias the New Martyr of Patra
21
Maximos the Confessor

Neophytos the Martyr of Nicaea
22
Timothy the Apostle of the 70

Anastasios, the Persian Righteous Monk-martyr
23
Clement the Hieromartyr & Bishop of Ancyra

Agathangelos the Martyr

Righteous Father Dionysius of Olympus
 
24
Saturday of the 15th Week

Xenia, Deaconess of Rome

Vavylas the Holy Martyr
25
15th Sunday of Luke

Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople
26
17th Monday after Pentecost

Xenophon & his Companions

Symeon the Elder of Mount Sinai
27
Removal of the Relics of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople

Peter the Righteous of Egypt

Demetrios the New Martyr of Constantinople
 
28
Ephraim the Syrian

Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Ninevah

James the Righteous
29
Removal of the Relics of Ignatios the God-bearer

Laurence the Recluse of the Kiev Caves
30
Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom

Hippolytos, Pope of Rome

Athanasia the Martyr & her 3 daughters
 
31
Cyrus & John the Unmercenaries

Holy Women Martyrs Theodote, Theoktiste and Eudoxia

Our Righteous Father Arsenius of Parus


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