Greek Orthodox tradition involves the celebration of many a Saint’s day throughout the year, one of the most important being St. Basil’s Day.
Known to most as New Year’s Day, Greek tradition holds that Saint Basil brings gifts to children every January 1st, unlike other traditions where the better known Saint Nicholas (A.K.A Santa Claus) goes round on his sleigh handing out pressies on Christmas Eve.
It is a tradition on St Basil's Day to serve vasilopita, literally translated as “Sweet Bread of Basil”. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is baked into the ingredients – whoever finds the coin in their slice is said to be blessed for the new year.
Before we can all get our greedy mitts on a slice, there are a few traditions which need to be observed. To start, the bread is traditionally cut by the most senior member of the family. Then, before we get to strategically pick a slice, we cut one portion in remembrance of Jesus Christ, a second for the Virgin Mary and a third for St. Basil the Great. Sometimes, people even cut a slice for the Church, the house, the traveller, the visitor and for the poor. In our home, we always cut a slice for the house (to bless it) and for the poor (to bring them good fortune). Any more slices and there’d be none left for us to eat!
We’re not the most religious of Greek families but, regardless, traditions like these stick – and New Year’s Day would certainly not be the same without them.
I’ll be adding the recipe to this post soon, but since I don’t have it to hand, here’s a pic of what a traditional Vasilopita should look like (yes, before you ask, it should have that hole in the middle!)
A very happy new year to all! Now, one more slice of Vasilopita before the detox begins…
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