Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

vasilopitta a traditional Greek New Year bread, also known as St Basil’s bread. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated more elaborately than Christmas in Greece. The Greek equivalent to Father Christmas is Aghios Vasilis—St Basil—and he arrives on New Year’s Eve when the children also receive presents. The vasilopitta occupies a prominent position on the table for the arrival of the New Year.

Rena Salaman (1993a) quotes from William Miller (Greek Life in Town and Country, 1905):

On the same night, too [New Year’s Eve] takes place the ceremony of cutting ‘St Basil’s Cake’—a large circular mass of brioche with almonds and walnuts upon it, which is solemnly cut open, shortly before midnight, by the head of the house. Sometimes a franc or a gold piece is put into the cake, and the person receiving the piece which contains the coin, is supposed to be going to have a lucky year. In the country, after cutting the cake, a fine pomegranate is thrown violently on the ground, so as to scatter the seeds.