At the beginning of a new year it is customary to bake a Vasilopita cake or bread in honor of Saint Basil the Great. In the loaf or cake is a coin, each piece is cut for someone, God, the Church, family, organizations, friends and Saint Basil. The tradition celebrates the one who gets the coin in their piece as lucky and will have a prosperous new year. It is a fun tradition, full of history and honor for Orthodox faith and customs.
This year, in our house, it was not fun, nor was it a celebration. It started out festive and celebratory. My 4 year old daughter was very invested in the mixing of ingredients, washing the coin, wrapping it and placing it in the batter. All was well up to that point. Once I explained the tradition, she couldn’t help but be obsessed about getting the coin. “I want to be the lucky one”, she kept crying.
I struggled with how to communicate to this sweet, very upset child that she is indeed lucky, no matter what is or is not in her piece of cake. At that moment we had each other, we had our health and we were spending time together sharing traditions. Deep down, I think she understood but in that moment, the coin was all she could think about. She wanted to be lucky.
Although I admit I was frustrated by her reaction and just wanted her to enjoy the experience, I understand how a tradition like that could seem to a young person as all or nothing. You are lucky if you get the coin, or you are not if you don't. Over time she will understand it, but in that moment I so badly wanted her to understand how lucky she already is.
A dear friend and colleague gifted my daughter “The Lucky Cake” by Anna Prokos. It was the perfect gift - especially for this year. The young boy in the story hopes to “win the prize” as well and becomes stressed out at the possibility that he won’t get it. Until of course, he comes to understand how fortunate he already is. We read the story that night and I found I might have needed it more than she did.
I felt comforted by the fact that others were teaching their children the same lessons, understanding there is a developmental phase they need to reach to comprehend the lesson. However, it was the right time to start now. Sharing with her how fortunate we are in the little things is so valuable because when she is older and understands better, the message will be familiar.
It was a reminder to me that she and I can share in small gratitudes each day and each night and over time she might inherently understand that she has the power to make her own luck and that no matter what is, or is not in her Vasilopita, she is still the "lucky one".
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