We all know the way too celebrate the New Year, between the fireworks and the champagne, but as Greeks, we have a special and unique tradition: that of the VASILOPITA.
A Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake or bread served at midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the life of Saint Basil. Vasilopita is made of a variety of doughs, depending on the region and almost every family has it’s own recipe. The Vasilopita is also decorated with almonds, which create the year number. When decorating with the almond, each one is ‘wished upon’, thus the almonds become wishes for the new year: prosperity, health and luck.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT LUCKY COIN
Each family will cut the vasilopita with two slices, making a cross. After baking the vasilopita cake, a coin is inserted through the base and when cut the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year. The pieces are cut in a particular order: The first piece is for Christ, the next piece is cut for the needy and then a piece for the house. The rest of the pieces are now cut for members of the family, starting with the head of the household, then each member of the family in
order from eldest to youngest, including those that are absent.
No one is allowed to look at their piece until everyone is given theirs. Then, once the server or the head of the household gives his or her okay, everyone checks to see if they found the coin – the lucky one with the coin in his or her piece is the one who is going to have a fortuitous year!
In older times, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a gift that corresponds to the coin, usually a charm that is given to the coin recipient.
History of Vasilopita
The history of vasilopita can be traced back to the ancient festivals of Kronia and Saturnalia and is connected to a legend of Saint Basil. In honor of Saint Basil, or Agios Vasilios, people bake this bread every year. The tradition has evolved from the original story and now whoever finds the coin is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. However, the bread itself does serve as a reminder for all that Agios Vasilios did for people of Greece.
We woul love to share this recipe with you, from one of the best Greek Pastry chefs Stelios Parliaros, who happens to be a good friend, which you can find here
- 250 g butter
- 250 g icing sugar
- 125 g ground almonds
- 125 g ground pistachios
- 6 eggs
- 250 g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300 g dried fruit, finely chopped
- 200 ml Amaretto
Soak the dried fruit in the Amaretto. Beat the butter, sugar and ground nuts until they are fluffy. Blend the dried fruit together with the Amaretto and add to the mixture continuing beating for a while longer. Add the eggs gradually. Add the flour and the baking powder, beating continually. Butter a baking pan and dust it with flour, place the mixture in it and bake at 180°C for one hour.
Καλή Χρονιά, sending you sweet and lucky wishes!