New Year Celebrations in Greece

Source Greek Reporter

Do you ever wonder how people in Greece celebrate the annual New Year’s festivities? The country and its people are so passionate about their culture and traditions that it’s no wonder there are so many New Year’s traditions for the holiday that is known in Greece as “Protohronia.”

January 1 is not just New Year’s Day in Greece, but also St. Basil’s Day — the name day of all those people throughout the nation who have the name Vasilis or Vasiliki.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular New Year’s traditions in Greece!

Fireworks Shows

These shows, full of glitter and magic, light up the night skies all across the country in many cities and villages on the first night of the year.

But certainly nothing could possibly beat watching the fireworks which light up the Parthenon on Athens’ Acropolis Hill. Isn’t it the ultimate experience, to celebrate the beginning of another year in the place where modern civilization really began?

Just think of the number of New Years that ancient place has seen.

Carolers Bringing Good Luck to Your Home

Carolers play the triangle and sing traditional Greek songs known as “Kalanda” as they visit the homes in their neighborhoods.

It is customary to give the children money when they come to your door. The songs are thought to bless your house for the new year and it is therefore considered good luck if a caroler visits you. This is an ancient Greek tradition which continues to live on throughout the entire country!

“Agios Vasilis,” or St. Basil, is the Greek Santa Claus – and he Comes on January 1

After the celebrations of Christmas, Greek children impatiently await the New Year because that’s when St. Basil (Agios Vasilis) delivers their gifts. In Greece it is the custom to exchange gifts at the New Year instead of on Christmas Day.

The presents are delivered by Saint Basil, so Agios Vasilis is known as Greece’s Santa Claus.

Try to Be the First Guest at Someone’s House

If you are fortunate enough to be the first guest at someone’s home on New Year’s Day, you are considered to be very lucky. The catch is that on New Year’s Eve the head of the household will usually request a family member to bring a guest the following day whom they consider to bring good luck. Try to be that person.

Playing Cards

Since New Year’s Day is considered to be a day of good fortune, many Greeks try their luck at card games. From Greece’s big metropolitan cities to tiny, snowy hillside villages, you will see people both young and old playing cards as they ring in the new year.

It is the custom for cards to be played on New Year’s Eve while waiting for the stroke of midnight and the change of the year. The betting sums are usually kept low, so as to offer a friendly diversion without upsetting the losers. Nowadays, many people go out to the casinos as well to partake in this ancient tradition.

Vasilopita Cake for Saint Basil

Vasilopita Cake for Saint Basil

As we stated above, January 1 is not only New Year’s Day but Saint Basil’s Day as well in the Orthodox world. Greeks bake a coin into an orange-flavored pound cake, which is then sliced up and served, to celebrate the feast day of this great saint.

The first cut goes to Jesus and then the rest is served to the family. You can even cut slices for family members who are not present, as well as one for “the house.” The person who gets the slice with the coin is said to be the lucky one for the rest of the year.

Smashing a Pomegranate on the Threshold 

From ancient times, the pomegranate has been considered to be a sign of fertility, prosperity and regeneration. It has been the custom since those times for all Greek households to hang a pomegranate above the main entrance of the house, and some even smash the fruit against their threshold for extra good luck. Some people also get the fruit blessed at their local Church before doing so.

And All Those Sweet Greek Christmas treats

It wouldn’t be Christmas without traditional Greek Christmas sweets, which are so very deliciously sweet and fattening!

The traditional sweets one simply must have at this time of year include snowy kourabiedes, which are Greek Christmas cookies filled with almonds and drenched in powdered sugar; melomakarona, which are sticky-sweet cookies soaked in honey, with a spicy hint of cloves; and diples, thin strips of dough which are folded and fried before being sprinkled with chopped nuts and honey.

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