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Inside the Domestic Church Part 22: The Church Throughout the Year, January/February

January 1: The Feast of St Basil the Great. One of the days of the Church in which the liturgy of St Basil rather than that of St John Chrysostom is celebrated, there is a popular tradition of eating a sweet bread into which a coin is baked, known as Vasilopita.

January 6: Holy Theophany. The feast of Theophany celebrates the revelation of the Trinity on the occasion of the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River by St John the Forerunner. It is the completion and fulfillment of the Christmas celebration. In honor of His baptism, the Church blesses water on this day, which many parishes provided in bottles for parishioners to take home; these bottles can be drunk or sprinkled on children, houses, gardens, or anything which moves you to do so. Some families also celebrate this feast by making zlaybe, which can be made as follows:

3 cups flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ cake yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water with 1 tsp sugar

mix dry ingredeients

add enough water to form a dough the consistency of heavy cake batter and whip until smooth

let rise about one hour

stretch the dough over hot oil and drop it in to fry

dip into basic sugar syrup or in dry sugar and serve

February 2: The Encounter of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. Like Theophany, this is one of the 12 Great Feats. This feast recalls the meeting of Simeon and Anna with the infant Jesus when he was brought to the temple for the rite of purification forty days after His birth. One tradition holds that Simeon is the scribe who translated the book of Isaiah as prophesying God would be born of a virgin, and as a result was granted the privilege to live until he had seen the Christ.

The Great Fast: This time, in which the Church prepares for Pascha, has no set date but most usually begins in February (occasionally in March). Perhaps no period in the life of the Church is more filled with custom than the Great Fast, and as a result it will receive its own entry next week.

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