New Year’s Eve has always involved rituals related to celebrating life, the joy of witnessing another year and good luck and prosperous wishes for the year to come. Many of these rituals are passed from one generation to the next.
Shows of glitter and magic light up the skies all across the country in many cities and villages. The spectacles are all different from city to city, but they are all magnificent to watch!
Vassilopita Cake for Saint Basil
January 1st is New Year’s Day as well as Saint Basil’s Day. Greeks bake a coin into the cake that is then sliced up and served. The first cut goes to Jesus and then the rest to the family – you can even cut slices for family members who are not present, as well as one for ‘the house.’
Carolers Bring Good Luck to Your Home
Carolers play the triangle and sing “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 is therefore considered good luck if a caroler visits you. This is a very old tradition that continues to live on throughout the entire country!
Let’s Play Cards!
The twelve days of Christmas are already in full swing by New Year’s Eve. Everyone is enjoying happy moments with family and friends. But not all that time spent with the beloved ones is simply devoted to food and conversation. New Year’s Eve is also the right time to engage in endless hours of card games.
Good fortune and New Year celebrations go hand in hand, and doing something that could attract even more luck, such as playing games, is something no Greek would ever say no to. Bets are modest and symbolic, the idea is to get something out of nothing, a real metaphor for luck!
Even with limited amounts at stake, people get really enthusiastic and games usually last all night, even in cafés and taverns. Board games, dice and the State lottery are also valid alternatives to this moderate, but spread gambling euphoria, that is enjoyed by the old and the young alike.
One More Place at the Table
There’s no doubt that such a mystic day comes together with a unique dinner, probably one of the most symbolic of the year. But not everything revolves around food. Many households set an extra empty place at the festive table; a symbolic ritual closely related to the legendary Greek hospitality, there will always be a place at the table for any newcomer.
Hanging a big, juicy pomegranate over the front door is a typical Greek ritual that takes place on the night of New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, the family leaves the house minutes before midnight.
Right after midnight, one especially lucky member of the family (usually a child), will be the first to reenter the house, stepping inside with the right foot. This lucky First Footer will be in charge of bringing good luck for everyone who lives in the house, for the rest of the year.
While the First Footer enters the house, another family member grabs the pomegranate with their right hand, and smashes it against the door, causing as many seeds as possible to fly around the room. Tradition says that the more seeds that fall all over the floor, the more good fortune will be brought to the house.