Posted by: nikusjka | January 4, 2012

New Year in Greece

Καλή χρονιά! Happy New year!

BUT! What kind of New year is that??? No real Christmas trees, no 40 min long fireworks, no meat (Russian) salad, no toasts and no president`s speech!!!

Instead: breaking of pomegranate, singing and playing New year`s carol (Greek: “Κάλαντα Πρωτοχρονιάς“), eating a cake with a coin inside, huge traffic on the streets and every party finishing with what? Right, Greek dances!

But still it was fun!

Want an explanation for all the crazy thing I wrote above? Here you go 🙂

1. Breaking of pomegranate. This fruit from ancient times considered as a symbol of regeneration, fertility and prosperity. Shortly after midnight Greeks throw it against the porch and the more small pieces it gets smashed into, the more luck the family will have the next year.

2. “Κάλαντα Πρωτοχρονιάς” or New year`s carol. The traditional song kids sing when they go around the houses singing songs and asking for treats. Moreover this song is also many times performed by families shortly after New year using handy instruments. So far it seems to me every Greek family has at least one musical instrument at home, e.g the simplest tambourine.

Here is the carol:

3. Cake with the coin or Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα). New Year`s cake with a golden coin baked into it. The recipe is very simple, even though some ingredients (e.g. nuts, orange pills etc) might vary.

Shortly after New Year`s midnight Vasilopita is cut and a piece is distributed to every member of the family and any house guests that are present at that moment. The person that gets a piece with a coin inside, is considered to be lucky this year and these days he also gets a prearranged present or some sum of money (depending on family`s traditions and preferences).

Every Vasilopita has letters “Χ” and “Π” on the top, meaning “Χρόνια  Πολλά” – “many years” in direct translation. This greeting si very common not only on New Year, but is appropriate on almost any celebration, e.g. Birthday, Names day etc.

Vasilopita New year Greece

Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα)

Vasilopita New year Greece Xronia polla

Vasilopita from inside (Βασιλόπιτα)


The name Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα) come from “vasilias” (Greek: βασιλιάς), meaning “king” and pita (Greek: πίτα), meaning “pie, cake”. So basically it`s a pastry in honor of Saint Vasilis (St.Basil). Wikipedia tells us a very romantic story about why Greeks bake a coin into Vasilopita:

According to the legend 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 jewelery. 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, the legend goes.


4. Huge traffic. There are 3.370.000 people in Athens + huge number of visitors. So no wonder if everybody would like to move from friend`s house to house or to the party and everybody is doing it by car or taxi – there is going to be TRAFFIC! So as all my Greek friends suggested – stay at home or friends` home to avoid it. I spend 2 hours in the car from Keratea to Imithos, most of this time was spend standing in the traffic jam inside the city.

5. And of course Greek dances!!! But this requires another chapter in this blog 🙂



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