Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions: Vasilopita, Greek New Year's Cake
One of the marvellous things about living in
is I get to celebrate Christmas twice.
Greeks do celebrate Christmas on 25th December, but as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Santa Claus, who, in The Greek Orthodox Church, is Saint Vasilios (Basil), and not Saint Nicholas, arrives with his sack of presents at New Year.
(The first of January is Saint Vasilios, or Agios Vasilis’s Feast Day.)
|Agios Vasilios or Saint Basil.|
The Greek Santa Claus
Visits at New Year
Albeit living in
thirty eight years, I just can’t give up my English Christmas, hence the double
celebration, which does have its pros and cons, twice the fun, twice the work.
This also means two Christmas cakes, traditional English and the Greek Vasilopita.
The Vasilopita, Greek Christmas or New Years’s cake, takes its name from Saint Vasilios, Bishop of Caesarea.
Bishop of Caesarea
Legend has it, that, back in the fourth century, Saint Vasilios, known for his kindness and compassion, was racking his brains, trying to come up with a way to distribute money to the needy of
Caesarea, without embarrassing them.
The idea, of concealing coins in specially baked bread, sweetened and distributed to the citizens of
Caesarea, as a symbol of sweetness
and joy for the coming year, seemed as good an idea as any to him.
This custom, with its wonderful story, is still observed today, in every Greek home.
Down the years, Vasilopita has evolved from simple sweetened bread, into any type of cake, simple or luxurious, (containing a lucky coin, the Flouri in Greek) to be traditionally cut at midnight on New Year’s Eve, by the head of the family.
Greek New Year's cake with Flouri (Lucky coin)
Vasilopita is not cut into any old way, the protocol is as follows:
The Vasilopita is scored with the sign of the Cross; the first slice goes to Jesus Christ, the second to The Virgin Mary, the third to Saint Vasilios, the fourth to the family house, and, from then on, in order of age, to each member of the family.
Whoever finds the coin, will be blessed with good luck, health and happiness for the coming year.
|Constantinato or Flouri|
Lucky gold coin
I spent ages, looking for my lucky gold coin, to put in my Vasilopita.
Then, I remembered, it's in my Christmas cake!
Our family Vasilopita is usually a boring Madeira cake, dusted with icing sugar, but this year, I’m going to try something new.
I love carrot cake, and when I spotted the gorgeous Gogo’s brilliant idea of making one for her New Year’s Vasilopita, I was hooked!
|Mamatsita's delicious carrot cake/Vasilopita|
Gogo, also known as Mamatsita, famous all over Greece, for her informative and enjoyable cooking show; "Let's Eat Together", aired on Greek national television, is a mother, forever on the go, cooking up a storm, be it on the streets for festivals, in supermarkets for promotions or at home, for her wonderful family.
|The Gorgeous Gogo|
I don’t know where Gogo finds the time to charge her batteries, along with all the above, Gogo also runs the tremendously successful food blog “Mamatsita”.
Have a look at MAMATSITA, (Find the recipe for Gogo's carrot cake here) you’ll love it, simple, easy to follow, everyday recipes, that time and time again, turn out perfect results, and I can vouch for that, I’ve tried more than a few.
For “Non Greekers”, don’t worry, just "right click" with your mouse and translate with Google, not perfect, but, you’ll understand enough to create Gogo’s mouth-watering dishes.
Once again, thank you Gogo, for your delightful recipes, I’ll let you know how my carrot cake/Vasilopita goes down with my family, I have no doubts at all about it being a hit.
I can't wait to have a go at making this delightful cake from Gogo.
Have the best New Year, Gogo, hope you get the "Flouri"!
(Happy New Year…Greek style)
Learn about more Greek Christmas customs and traditions at the links below: