Photographer's Note


Koliva (also transliterated Kolyva) (Greek, κόλλυβα, kólliva; Serbian, кољиво, koljivo; Romanian, colivă; Bulgarian, коливо, kolivo) is boiled wheat which is used liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches.

This ritual food is blessed after the memorial Divine Liturgy performed at various intervals after a death; after the funeral; during (mnemosyna - memorial services); on the first Friday of the Great Lent, at slavas, or at mnemosyna in the Christmas meal. Due to its pleasant taste, in some countries (though not in Greece or Romania) it is consumed on other non-religuous occasions as well, often with cream on top.

While recipes may vary widely, the primary ingredient is wheat kernels or pearl barley, which has been boiled until they are soft, and then sweetened with honey, sugar, and some fruit. It may also contain sesame seeds, almonds, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and parsley. The practice of making and eating koliva is known in Russia and many Balkan countries.

When served, the koliva mixture, which looks something like earth, is shaped into a mound or cake to resemble a grave. The whole is then covered with powdered sugar and the initials of the deceased or other Christian symbols are outlined on the top. A candle, usually placed in the center of the koliva, is lit at the beginning of the memorial service and extinguished at its end. After the liturgy, those attending share in eating the koliva as they speak of the deceased and say "may God forgive him/her."

Some Orthodox parishes have a designated individual charged with making the koliva. This is in part due to the risk of fermented wheat if the koliva is not prepared correctly.

Sometimes koliva is made with rice instead of wheat. This custom began as a practical response to a famine that occurred in Soviet Russia, when the faithful did not have wheat available for koliva, so they used rice instead. Some communities continue to use rice for their koliva to this day.

The origin of koliva predates Christianity. The word stems from the Ancient Greek kollyvo or κόλλυβo, which originally means cereal grain (also called "žito", or "wheat" in Bulgarian and Serbian). In the Ancient Greek panspermia, a mixture of cooked seeds and nuts were offered during the festival of the Anthesteria. In Greece, therefore, koliva is also called sperna, a term associated also with "sperm." The association between death and life, between that which is planted in the ground and that which emerges, is deeply embedded in the making and eating of koliva. The ritual food passed from paganism to early Christianity in Byzantium and subsequently spread to the entire Orthodox world.

Orthodox Christians consider koliva to be the symbolic of death and resurrection.


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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Oana St (oanna) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 242 W: 72 N: 193] (1202)
  • Genre: Lugares
  • Medium: Cor
  • Date Taken: 2008-03-29
  • Categories: Comida, Cerimónias
  • Exposição: f/6.3, 1/30 segundos
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Versão da Foto: Versão Original
  • Date Submitted: 2008-04-03 0:04
Viewed: 4105
Points: 9
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Additional Photos by Oana St (oanna) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 242 W: 72 N: 193] (1202)
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