|e-vasilopita 2021 of Holy Cross Greek School, Belmont, California|
Tradition in combination with the abilities of the internet communication can bring us closer.
in this special cutting there won't be any taste or personal contact, but the point of cutting vasilopita will touch us all, which is equality, hospitality, love, concord, respect, communication, justice, unit
St Vasilios(Santa Claus) and vasilopita
According to the Greek tradition, the New Years Cake has been established as a custom of the celebration of St. Vasilios, on the first day of the year, because of the following event:
Beforetime, in Kapadokia where St. Vasilios lived in the capacity of abbacy, the land suffered from a death famine and the people suffered from malnutrition. But that didnt seem to be a problem for the tough eparch Elbinios, who was demanding to get the taxes in any way, even by threatening the people with raid and sack of Caesarea. Then St. Vasilios appealed to each one of the citizens to offer a piece of jeweler, preparative to entice the eparch, and save their home and lives.
A whole treasure had been gathered indeed!
Thereafter, St. Vasilios met the tough eparch and using his suave manners, narrated the tragedy of his people. He also mentioned that the law-abiding citizens were willing to pay the taxes even doing without their heirloom and precious jeweler. St. Vasilios, smoothed up with palaver the soul of the eparch and abated his anger, so that the eparch remitted the taxes, and gave back the treasure.
But what would anyone own? How could St. Vasilios give back that entire jewel? The idea that he had, could give the solution. He gave to each family a cake, in which a jewel was hidden. The rest was God's business. Since then, the New Year's Cake has been established as a custom, that indicates the lucky one of the year..
The ancient Greek roots of the custom
On the other side, the folklorists are still searching the ancient Greek roots of the custom. Cause as we know, in the past, people around the world after learning the way of making flour, needed to dedicate small pieces of bred (as an offer) to the spirits of nature.
That's why the folklorists detect the roots of the custom of vasilopita, through the festive bread that ancient Greeks, offered to the Gods, during every big moment of their lives. For example, every Athenian soldier had to dedicate to Ares, the god of war, three pieces of bread, before he lived for the war. The first one was a wish to win in the battle. The second one was a wish to come back home and the third one was a wish, to come back healthy and able in body and mind. These breads were also given, as an offer, to Artemis the goddess of hunting, to Dimetra the goddess of earth and nature.
The Romans adopted the habits of Greeks, and they started making their own pie, as an offer to Saturn, the god of fertility. They were the first to establish the coin in the pie, as a sign of health and luck. They also used to put a little piece of papyrus in the cake, which could give the freedom to the slave who would find it.
Folklorists also say that the best pies were made by the habitants of Byzantium, who blended the pie, using yeast, eggs, grease and sugar. The decoration consisted of a dough cross, and the monograms of Christ and Mother.
So vasilopita, became the most characteristic custom of the new Year's day for the Greeks, starting as an ancient habit (offer to the gods), afterwards as a habit of the Romans, and at the end as a Christian habit in the Byzantium, which was conjunct to St. Vasilios whose memory is celebrated on the first day of the New Year.
SYMBOLS-MARKS in vasilopita
In the salty vasilopita, the wishes and the symbolisms were mainly expressed by marks (except the traditional coin flouri) that the housewife would hide at the base of the cake.
So, for example, the tradition in Epirus demanded a vasilopita stuffed with chicken, lamb mince or whole peaces of pork, mixed with frumenty, leek and eggs. Aside from the coin (flouri), there were other signs too, according to the job of the family members, such as a little stick for the shepherd, a pine cone for the woodcutter, a straw for the farmer, a cross for the house, or some fruits such as wheat, bean or corn, and whatever people desired.
In west Macedonia and Thrace, when the father of the family had to divide the property to the sons, St. Vasilios used to take care of the division. In the big cake, the signs weren't put for the wish but for the division. The pieces of the vasilopita were called Fele. The son in whose fele was the coin (flouri) hidden, would own the house. The bean corresponded to a field, the vine stick to the vineyard, the straw to the animals e.t.c.
But also the cutting of the vasilopita was a real ritual. Firstly the father of the family had to rotate the cake three times on the name of trinity. Afterwards he passed a key, a knife or a fork above the cake in the shape of the cross, in order to stop the gossip, the bad thoughts and to deter the effects of envy. On the coming of the New Year, he cut the cake into pieces and named each of them, in an established turn.