A typical custom to warmly welcome the New Year is the Greek vasilopita, βασιλόπιτα, a brioche bread or cake with a hidden coin inside. Whoever has this coin in his piece will have good luck for the New Year!
People make this type of cake by themselves or buy it a few days before the New Year’s Eve. The ingredients are simple: flour (αλεύρι – alévri), orange juice (χυμός πορτοκαλιού – himós portokaliú), milk of choice (γάλα της επιλογής – ghála tis epiloghís), sunflower oil (ηλιέλαιο – iliéleo), sugar (ζάχαρη – záhari), baking soda (μαγειρική σόδα – maghirikí sótha) and voilà! One can experiment with more ingredients and find recipes online!
And why is it called «Βασιλόπιτα»? It is associated with Saint Basil, «Άγιος Βασίλης», whose name day is celebrated on the 1st of January, that is the New Year. That is why it’s very common that the first morning of the New Year or right after the midnight and dinner, the family gathers around the table and perform this ritual of cutting the cake. However, another interpretation of the name βασιλόπιτα is that it comes from «βασιλεύς» (vasiléfs) who is the “king” + «πίτα» (pita) which stands for “cake” or “pie”.
Exactly because it is a “sacred” cake, a piece has to be offered to Jesus Christ, Mother Mary, Santa Claus, the house etc…a fact that has generated humoristic situations since many times the coin is hidden in one of those pieces and people get annoyed! Or, in families with children, it is typical that the parents agree on giving the piece with the coin to the children, to avoid, you know, the fuss!
Last but not least, many regions in Greece have their own version of vasilopita. For example, in Thessaly, the pie is called «πρασόπιτα» (prasópita) which is a savoury dough with leeks! Who will get the coin, «το φλουρί» (to flurí) this year and be lucky?