December 28, 2020 Eugenia Papadopoulou

Let’s welcome 2021 and see how Greeks celebrate New Year! 

n a few days 2020 will be history and we will welcome 2021! Let’s see how Greeks get prepared about this special event and how they celebrate this special day! First of all, New year is a big family celebration, I can say that it is bigger than Christmas, and especially this year everybody anticipates to say good bye to 2020.. 

In Greek is called Πρωτοχρονιά – Protohronia, and it’s not only New Year’s Day but also Saint Vasilios day – the day that all those who are baptized Vasilis (Bill) and Vasiliki celebrate their name day. 

Agios Vasilis is the “Greek Santa Claus”. Traditionally, Agios Vasileios used to be completely different as far as their appearance is concerned: our “Santa Claus” is not  the jolly, chubby, white beard Santa with the red clothes and the reindeer (after all these animals never existed in Greece), he was the bishop of Caesarea  who lived on the 4th century and thus he is usually depicted as a pious figure, dressed in long, clergy robes and wearing a long beard.  He is still kids’ most favorite Saint and they wait for that day all year round as Agios Vasileios comes to deliver their presents! Yes you understood well, obviously he comes on New Years Eve and not on Christmas time and that’s when Greeks usually exchange their presents!  It is considered good luck to inaugurate the new year by offering and receiving something new, special, a small sweet gesture! The new year present  like a charm, an amulet, a small treasure  incorporates  all the love and the positive vibes of your beloved people and that will help you cope with the new year in the very best of the ways! 

Before this, on New Years Eve, kids sing the traditional kalanda- carols.  These songs bless your house and it is considered good luck for the new year! That’s why we treat them with candies and pocket- money! 

Families, relatives and friends gather all together in their houses to welcome the new year (eating ??)! The rule is simple: the more the merrier (needless to say that just this year and according to the anticovid restrictions it will be a family matter as big parties are prohibited). 

When midnights comes all together sing a song saying good bye and thanking the old year for all the moments and welcome the new one! Then fireworks shows light up the night skies all across the country and sprinkle glitter and magic  on the very first night of the year. Then the adults and just to to try their luck for the new year would play cards (keeping the betting sums low).  

The most important moment of the first night of the new year though is the cutting of the Vasilopita! What is Vasilopita? Is the pie of Saint Vasilios: a sweet type of  cake- bread  that every housewife prepares (or buys from a pastry shop). Vasilopita is that essential that there is no Protohronia without it! It is is prepared with sweet flavoring and symbolizes the joy of life and the hope – wish that the new Year will be filled with abundance, happy moments and sweetness. But above all: inside the Vasilopita there is a coin that has been baked during the preparation and is  called “flouri”.  The individual who receives the slice that contains the  coin is considered to be blessed with good luck in the new year! 

You may have heard that Greeks are quite superstitious and that is proved once again in the  cutting of the Vasilopita that  takes place at the very first minutes of the new year when all the family gets around the table and this special pie lies in the center of it. The cutting is a whole ritual full of symbolisms. The head of the household, usually the eldest man, father or grandfather, will spin the cake around 3 times. step number two: he shapes a  cross on top of it with a knife and then he will start cutting the slices of the pie. The first slice is Jesus’s slice, the second one is the slice of the house and the third of the “poor”. Then  all the other slices are named and the cake is divvied up so that every family member and guest receives a slice. Each one will receive his/ her slice when his turn comes as the recipients lining up from oldest to youngest. Attention please:  no one is allowed to look at their piece until everyone is given their piece. Then, once the server or the head of the household gives his or her okay, everyone checks to see if they found the coin. Isn’t very interesting?!

According to one story, St. Basil called on the citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. St. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family. So he baked all of the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share! 

Have you ever tried Vasilopita or won the lucky coin? Is there anything similar that you do on New Year’s Day?  

Your santorini guide wishes you a very very happy new year! A year that will make us forget all the negative aspects that we went through 2020 and will fill again our hearts with hope and light! A new year full of love, good luck, health, creativity and  inspiration. And as everybody knows  there is no better source of inspiration than traveling ♥️ and that’s my toast ? a year full of unforgettable experiences! Happy new year! 

Lots of love, 
Your santorini guide ? 

Comment (1)

  1. Sue

    This is another wonderful tradition that I would love to pass on to my family. What type of items are usually exchanged?

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