By Robert Frank
The holidays are a receding memory for most Canadians. Most of us have since hunkered down and resigned ourselves to three more months of winter.
However, members of Orthodox Christian communities are guided by the Gregorian calendar. They celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, and have just wrapped up their festivities.
Last week, more than 300 members of Holy Cross Church, located at 4236 du Souvenir in Laval, followed up with a special Greek Orthodox tradition in remembrance of the needy, during a liturgical event on Sunday, Jan. 13.
Diamando Priftakis, president of the Holy Cross Church ladies’ benevolent society, joined parish priest the Very Rev. Nektarios Mostratos in cutting a sweet bread called the Vassilopita.
The name means St. Basil’s bread. It is named after St. Basil the Great, whom Greeks revere as the father of philanthropy. In the fourth century, he wanted to help the poor in the vicinity, so he asked local women to bake sweet bread, in which he hid gold coins.
Holy Cross is one of many Greek Orthodox churches that keep this tradition alive by hiding a coin in sweet bread.
The person who finds the coin is considered to be the one who has received St. Basil’s calling to perpetuate work on behalf of the poor. In recognition of this, the Holy Cross finder got to keep the coin and was given a prize. Proceeds from the colourful and palate-pleasing fundraising event went to the Holy Cross Church ladies’ benevolent society, better known as Philoptochos—a Greek word that means ‘friend of the poor’.
The money will be used to help families in need, permitting them to reach out to more families than the previous year, thanks to the generous donations of members of the Greek Orthodox parish.
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