Published: 31-07-2012, 12:02

Christmas in Greece: St. Basil’s Day

Christmas in Greece

Christmas in Greece: Advent

Christmas in Greece: Carols

Christmas in Greece: Christmas dinner

Christmas in Greece: Name-day celebrations

Christmas in Greece: Superstitions

Christmas in Greece: Epiphany

The Greeks open their holiday GIFTS on January 1 rather than on Christmas. Since January 1 is observed as St. Basil’s Day in Greece, children view St. Basil as the Christmas gift bringer. Other St. Basil’s Day customs include sharing a special loaf of bread called vasilopita, or "St. Basil’s Bread.” Often this takes place at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but it may also take place on the following day. Some families observe a special ceremony when cutting and distributing the holiday bread. The head of the family blesses the bread and makes the sign of the cross over it. The bread is sliced, and the first piece is offered to Christ, the second to the Virgin MARY, the third to St. Basil, and the fourth to the poor. The next piece goes to the head of the family. The rest of the family receive their pieces according to age, the eldest first. The bread contains a small token, such as a coin. Whoever finds the token in their slice of bread will have good luck in the coming year (see also CHRISTMAS CAKE; KING OF THE BEAN).

Greek folklore teaches that the first person to enter the house in the new year symbolizes the fortunes of the household (see also FIRST-FOOTING). Some Greeks prefer a healthy, strong person to enter first, others prefer an icon (a religious image) to enter first, held in someone’s outstretched arms. Householders often welcome the first person to cross their threshold in the new year with sweets and coins.

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