January 2019- Happy new year!
Happy New Year! Welcome 2019, let’s hope the year brings health and happiness to all.
Greece has many wonderful traditions and the new year starts with the cutting of the Vasilopita. The home made version is a sweet aromatic sponge like cake with a lucky coin inside call a Flouri. The shop bought one is more like a brioche. The cake is cut by the head of the house after the main meal and the entire cake is cut all at once to see who has the lucky coin and who will gain what his /her heart desires buy being the lucky one. Then, it’s only a few days to our next celebration which is the feast of Epiphany which is on January 6th. It celebrates the baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist and is a major feast day for the Greek Orthodox church and is also a national holiday. It is a chance to go out meet with friends and celebrate and see anyone you may not have seen yet, to wish them Chronia Polla. This greeting of Chronia Polla translates to “many years” . It is such a useful greeting and is used for any holiday, birthday etc.
In coastal towns the celebration of Ephiphany is a massive celebration as it involves the blessing of the sea. After the service the priests in their celebratory hats and gowns lead the congregation down to the waterfront. The procession ends with the priest throwing a cross into the sea and hardy young men diving to retrieve it. It is an interesting development that over the past years, some young girls have joined the boys and some non- Greeks have even taken up the challenge. I have watched this event in various weather conditions; mild winter mornings, heavy rain, stormy seas and snow, and fortunately, there is always someone who will rise to the challenge! The crowds applaud the lucky person who gets the cross and the winner is blessed with good luck for the year. The sailors consider this an important day as they sail the seas all year and the moment the cross is lifted above the water, the boats all sound their horns and distress rockets are fired all of which adds to the excitement of the celebrations.
I hope you all manage to experience these Greek traditions, firsthand, at least once in a lifetime!
Photo of Agia Galini from the harbour by sandysingssongs.com.