Greece celebrates its New Year on January 1, according to Georgian calendar. New Year, which is also called as ‘Protohronia’, is observed as a national holiday in Greece. The day, apart from marking the beginning of a New Year, is also prominent on the aspects of also being a ‘St. Basil’s Day’.
Therefore, the fervor involved in celebrations gets further elevated. Apart from engaging in New Year celebrations on New Years Eve, people do make sure to remember St.
Basil, one of the early time saints of the Greek Orthodox Church, who passed away on this date. People pay tribute to him, and show gratitude towards him for his kindness and generosity.
Celebrations on New Years Eve in Greece
Bursting firecrackers on New Years Eve has grown up to be a tradition, enthusiastically followed by most of the people in Greece. From small children to grown up adults, everyone jump and cheer in sheer excitement while setting off firecrackers in their neighborhood street, as well as at the time of enjoying the rip-roaring firework shows organized socially. It is the town centre holding the most intense throng of the evening.
People dance, cheer, and celebrate while waiting for the clock to turn twelve. Usually, all major points in the city have concerts with live performers. New Years Eve also saw a distinctive kind of celebration, when youngsters of the city mocks into a ‘bloodless’ war, with dummy plastic hammers, whistlers, clubs, and foam sprays as their weapons to fight.
The parties organized socially, as well as the feasts organized in private on New Years Eve are expected to serve something special with its menu. Certain dishes such as Greek salads, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, Greek Spinach pie or Spanakopita, Greek Mediterranean quail, Moussaka, grilled leg of lamb, kourabiedes cookies, and the traditional Greek cake of Vaselopita are some of the most prominent dishes, usually find in most of the feasts of the evening.
Vaselopita cake is cut into pieces and is distributed among people by the head of the house. The first piece and second piece of the cake is always meant to be dedicated to Christ and house respectively. The remaining pieces are then distributed among rest of the members of the house. One who finds the hidden coin in its piece of cake of Vaselopita is considered to get conferred with good luck and wealth in the entire coming year.
Traditions on New Years Eve in Greece
People play games, and exchange gifts as a part of New Years tradition. Playing traditional games such as Berlina and Vasilias on New Years Eve is very much a part of New Year celebrations for children, as it keep them awake, and engaged till the midnight, before they can witness the arrival of New Year, and then set off firecrackers to celebrate it. Other that, children in the house also sing New Year songs of Kalandas and Greek carols on New Years Eve, while moving from one house to other in the neighborhood.
In return, people present them with treats, gifts, and money. On the other hand, grown-up people in the house prefer to pass their evening time by playing cards or games of chance such as Pilotta and Biriba, which are sometimes organized on the level of a complete tournament.
There is a prominently followed tradition of ‘New Year Baby’, as a part of which, a small baby symbolizing the year to come, is usually dressed up in sash, diaper, and a top hat. Baby is also placed in a basket, in order to denote him as the Dionysis, the Greek God of wine, who is traditionally believed to had reborn as the spirit of fertility on the date of New Year.
There is another New Years Eve tradition of Pothariko, as a part of which a lucky person is invited in the house for the day of New Year. Usually, small children are preferred, as they are considered to be free from any sort of envy and wickedness. Also, there is an old, however less observed tradition of hanging up a plant of scilla maritime in their houses, as doing so is believed to bring good luck to the house in the New Year.