New Year and Vasilopita
As I mentioned earlier, the New Year on the island is almost not celebrated. The first New Year’s Eve, after my arrival on the island, was very hard for me. Not a shred of holiday atmosphere, no prenewyear excitement, wasted hours of New Year’s design styling for nothing, a waste of money for a dress with sequins :-) I think I’ve spent the evening comparing in thoughts my “fun” with friend from Serbia and here. I was 24 years old, I guess… and the fact that I fall asleep before midnight, was devastating. No, something like that I could not wish on my worst enemies, and I dare not imagine how I’m going to answer the famous question: “How did you spend New Year’s Eve?” Uh. And I realized that snowy New Year’s Eve in the future will be able to see only in picture books.
As the years went by, I realized and accepted that the New Year can be celebrated differently, and ultimately, Serbia and cities in Greece are not so far as I then thought. In addition, I realized that in fact new year does not bring any special reason to celebrate. I guess it goes with age :-)
As for island (and in general Greek) customs for New Year and Christmas are concerned, they are a combination of customs of the people of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox, and so for Christmas stuffed turkey with chestnuts is prepared, rice and raisins (the bird as a symbol of the harvest table is typical for the peoples of the West), and for New Year’s Vasilopita cutting which is similar to our chesnica .
Vasilopita is a cake which is different from one end of Greece to another, but common thing is that they all have in them a silver or gold coin, and in times of crisis, a euro :-)
In Greece, New Year’s Eve celebration coincides with the feast of St. Basil, one of the most important saints of the Orthodox Church, which for the Greek people is more important than the arrival of the new year. Holy Basil is known for having once collected taxes for the government in the form of jewelry and gold coins decided to give it back to the people, but not knowing what it belongs to whom he decided to bake a great cake and put all the jewelry inside it, then on the town square every man shared a slice of the cake. A miracle happened, and everyone found in their piece jewelry that belonged to them. As a memento of the event and the St. Basil which was adorned by kindness and generosity towards the poor, Greeks each year prepare cake called Vasilopita (Vassilieva pie or cake) that is cut at midnight on the day of the repose of St. Basil (January 1). Vasilopia cuts oldest in house, and the first piece is dedicated to St. Basil, second to home, and then the next parts of the cake are distributed to all in the house. After division everyone are hoping to find coin in their piece.
In Greece, Santa Claus is simply called Saint Basil (Agios Vasilios) and midnight on New Year’s Eve is welcomed in family circle.