Vasilopita – Popular tradition in Greece
One of the most beautiful and inspirational traditions in Greece is the annual family and friends celebration of the Vasilopita.
The Greek word Vasilopita is directly translated as “Sweet Bread of Basil”. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is baked into the ingredients. Sweet flavoring is added to the bread which symbolize the eternal sweetness and joy of life. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita celebration.
When the celebration begins, usually on New Years Day, the bread is traditionally cut by the senior member of the family, and the individual who receives the portion of the pita which contains the coin is considered blessed for the New Year.
This age old tradition commenced in the fourth century, when Saint Basil the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his diocese. He wanted to preserve their dignity, so as not to look like charity, he commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.
People in Greece celebrate the Vasilopita till the end of January more than one time, sharing this tradition with all familiars and friends.
The Vasilopita is a beautiful tradition and a wonderful way to begin the New Year.