Thursday, January 01, 2009

Greek Vasilopita

Today we cut the Vasilopita, and my son was the one to find the coin. Below is a description of the Vasilopita and what it means.

One of the most beautiful and inspiring traditions and customs of the Greek Orthodox Church is the observance of Vasilopita. It is this annual family observance. The word Vasilopita is a compound Greek word which means the sweet 'bread of Basil'.

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 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.

This original event which happened in Cappadocia of Caesarea in the last half of the fourth century, is very much alive in our Orthodox homes each year on January 1st.

According to tradition, this special sweet bread symbolizes the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. 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 Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usually added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives that portion of the Pita which contains the coin is considered blessed.

This tradition adds joy to the celebration at the beginning of the New Year, which everyone hopes will bring joy to all. Many Orthodox Christians enjoy the Vasilopita at home with their loved ones during the New Year celebration. A coin is wrapped and hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. The head of the family cuts the pieces of pita for all members of the family and any visitors present at the time, in order of age. Since Saint Basil loved the poor people, a special piece is cut for the unfortunate of the world, which symbolizes our concern for the poverty-striken people of all nations.

6 comments:

Ranae said...

How interesting.
Thanks for sharing

Spinning Beauty said...

What a lovely tradition...I bet your son was thrilled when he found the coin!

Gaynor said...

What a fantastic tradition...so nice that it is linked to family being together as well.
Thank you for that, we love learning about different countries.

On another subject, if your kits dont arrive by the end of next week can you let me know...
lol
Gaynor

omashee aka Barb said...

Michele, thank you for sharing information about this tradition. It gives me insight to something my mom used to do. We would often find coins in our cakes especially on birthdays and Christmas.
Love your blog!

Monika said...

Nice tradition, I have told about this my family, because it's interesting. Greetings

Sandra said...

That's a beautiful tradition. In my country we have many traditions inherited from around the world, since we are a multi-cultural and pluri-ethnic society. Is always nice to learn new ones.

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