"The Bread at Birth" ( To Momoreg)

Joined Jul 24, 2001
It’s weird how a hobby may turn into a 350 pages book. You almost have difficulties in believing it.
I started my survey on Bread in Greece merely out of curiosity 10 years ago. I was visiting various regions and I was discovering that for the agricultural society of my tiny country, bread was more than food.
People have attributed to Bread powers beyond logic and reason. The term we use in social science is “magical identities” and we don’t refer to magic etc. So for Greeks bread has “magical powers”.

Bread has a vital role in the Orthodox Greek Religion. In the Holly Communion symbolizes the “Body of Lord” as the wine symbolizes the “blood of Lord”, in the sacrifice that took place in Easter.

So it’s easy to understand why Bread was considered a shield against any kind of evil.

Another reason is that Greece used to be a terribly poor country. There are many proverbs according to which all you need to survive is “Bread and Olives” Bread was an essential part of nutrition so it’s common to take something essential and to attribute to it special powers.

So, I started collecting all the traditions that are related to kneading bread. Bread in Birth, in Marriage, in Death.
I started putting all these things together and I mailed this strange survey to a big publishing house of UK and in February they wrote me a letter to announce me that they would be honored to publish my book… Go figure!

So, since I cannot bake the appropriate bread for Momoreg’s son, all I can do for her is to post here some info regarding Bread and birth of a baby from my book that is under print and will have the title “ The Bread in the Tradition of the Greeks”.

There are various customs regarding all process from the moment the baby is conceived, during the pregnancy, the labor, the first tooth, the first steps :)

Oh the beloved bread, ready to serve any circumstance!

“There are various ways for a family of farmers that live in the province of Greece to announce the birth of a baby. The kneading of Bread and its distribution to the villagers is the most common way.

The family that celebrates the event prepares fresh white bread and give it away in every single family of the community. A doughnut shaped bread will arrive at the house of the person that will be the god father of the baby.

In most parts of Greece, the labor is followed by lunch that is called “gennitouria” (what is following the labor) and the main course, the bread, is cut into pieces by the midwife who delivered the baby.Of course doctors didn’t exist in those remote areas of the country! She is the one who will offer everyone a piece. The people who will attend this lunch must save a piece of bread to return it to the mother in order that she won’t loose her ability to breast-feed her infant.

The bread was present as well minutes after the labor. While they are washing it, women throw into the bath pieces of bread, so as the baby will become a strong and happy grown up.
Particularly in the island of Milos, the will throw into the bath, money, sugar and bread so the baby become a sweet, strong and beautiful grown up!
In the Island of Eboia they will throw the crust of the bread as well , so as the baby will never experience hunger in its life.
In the area of Kozani, after the first bath, they will put a piece of bread under its pillow so as the baby will grow up in abundance!
After the umbilicus cord is cut, a toasted piece of bread, soaked in wine is placed on the navel.

A piece of bread is put in the clothes as a shield against evil eye.

So, after the baby’s first bath and after it’s given to its mother, the lunch to celebrate the event starts in the main room of the house.
As I mentioned above, the midwife will cut the bread into pieces. This cut is ritualistic of course. She stands in the middle of the room, she places the large round shaped bread on her head and she first cut it into two pieces, then in four and so on always using her head!

The first 40 days of a baby are considered of great risk for the mother and the baby. Doctors didn’t even exist in those remote places so people attributed every health problem to evil eye!

The anti –evil shield was a piece of bread that must be always present by the baby during those 40 days.
Of course the mother was facing the same risks, for the reasons mentioned above, so according to the tradition, a person should always be with her and look after her for 40 days.

In case she had to be left alone a rolling pin would take the place of the guard!!!!

These are a small part of the “bread –traditions” all around Greece. In my book the customs that are related with the first days after birth, concerning the infant and its mother cover almost 40 pages. Some traditions although they would impress you I fear that they would twist the image of the Greek country and they would give you the impression that we are the most prejudiced people in the world, so I censored my self.
After all, in case you want to read more you can always buy the book. :D
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Nice plug, Vivian!

Thanks for the info. I will keep an eye (or both) open for it! :rolleyes:
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Dear Athenaues,

Thanks for sharing some text from your book.

Is your book in Greek only? or has it been translated to english?

I am more and more amazed and intriquied by the traditions of this tiny world of our's

I look forward to the oppurtunity to read your book, I hope you share some more with us.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Thank you for that! It's amazing how symbolic bread is in Greek culture, as well as many other cultures. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the rituals regarding childbirth and bread. I wonder how many of those rituals are still practiced today.

How soon do you expect your book to be availble for purchase? I would love to read more!

That was very thoughtful of you.:)

Joined Jul 24, 2001
You are welcome.

I would never have hesitated to mention that my book is under-publication if it was in English :blush: I wouldn't use the boards ofr publicity :)

The first edition will be in Greek and I have agreed for an English translation later that will be escorted by a book of recipes.

In the cities , all those customes are forgotten. In the province at least they bake a huge bread and many many pastries.
I bake a bread for every friend that delivers.:)

Ok Cape Chef I will post some more :)
Joined Aug 29, 2000
Thank you Vivian. There is so much to learn from you! Congratulations on the upcoming publication of your book. Wish it were that easy to get a publisher for mine. Let us know when the English version comes out!!!
Joined Feb 6, 2002
Thanks ~A~ and CONGRATS regarding your book! :bounce:

I wondered about the bread I got when my son was born. :confused: And why my MIL freaked out when I left the house and took the baby to the supermarket. I ran out of milk. :rolleyes: Now I won't be so surprised if it happens again when little Demetrius is born. :D

BTW: Is that the correct greek spelling of Demetrius?? Someone told us that there is supposed to be an "o" in there somewhere.

Top Bottom