August 27th we celebrate Saint Fanourios, whose name I find myself repeating whenever I seem to have misplaced or lost something.
One of my ultimate favorite Saints, by which his figurative name, Fanourios, means “to reveal” and denotes the finding of lost things. The definition of the Greek word fanerono is to proclaim, and this, in turn, has a significant meaning for our Saint.
Apparently his mother, whose name we do not know, was a cruel sinner who went straight to hell because of her shameful life. On the contrary, Saint Fanourio massively loved his mother and prayed for her soul to be saved. He begged God for her salvation so that she can rest in peace. The cake or fanouropita was dedicated in her memory and shared with seven or more people.
The numbers are significant in our Greek Orthodox faith. For instance, there are seven sacred mysteries; baptism, confirmation, confession, Holy Communion, marriage, ordination (Holy Orders), and unction (the anointing of the stick).
In addition, we use seven ingredients to make fanouropita; flour, sugar, oil, orange juice, walnuts and or raisins, baking powder and cinnamon. Lastly, when the cake is cut, it is divided into forty pieces indicating the forty days that the soul is in purgatory.
Consequently, we take the fanouropita to church on the Saint’s feast day, and the priest blesses it and recites the words of our saint that say “please forgive and save my mother’s soul.” Later we share the cake with anyone and everyone, so all of it is eaten.
Importantly, in northern Greece, legend says that unmarried women put a piece of the blessed fanouropita under their pillows to see the man that they will marry in their dreams at night.
My beloved neighbor, Kyria Elpiniki, God rest her soul, recited an unforgettable story to me a few years ago, about who she saw when she placed the fanouropita under her pillow. She saw a donkey, and she always said my husband was indeed a donkey in all the years of marriage that we had. This goes without saying, we Greeks negatively refer to people being gaidouria or donkeys because they are lazy.
Personally, I make the cake with love and bake it every year, to help me find my path in life. I believe in our Saint Fanourio’s power to give me luck and shed light on the road for my loved ones happy and blessed life.
If you’re looking for a Fanouropita recipe, we recommend trying Nana Savvatianou’s Fanouropita recipe on Cook Eat Up (in Greek).