“Greek New Year’s Bread”

There is a tradition in Greek culture of baking a sweet bread known as Vassilopita (or Basil’s bread). The day that it is supposed to be for is the first day of January in the common calendar, which is the feast-day of St. Basil in the Orthodox Christian religious calendar. So, how do you handle an Orthodox Christian tradition in a Hellenic Polytheist home? You call it “New Year’s Bread” and honor the tradition  as it is.

In a Greek home, the vassilopita is baked with a coin inside the dough. This coin is a symbol of prosperity or luck, making this bread into a divinatory rite. It is similar in many ways to the “King Cakes” popular during the run-up to Mardi Gras in New Orleans tradition.  I will not venture about the origin of this practice it is my opinion that debating about origins will not profit us in discussing how we bring this tradition forward.

As the bread is a sweet one, it is something that I take to mirror the sweetness of life. The coin as a symbol of prosperity would make it something that would be appropriate for other festivals as well — such as those which are involved with prosperity, family, or the harvest (among other things). I personally think that even though we are not Christians, we should not completely ignore the folk traditions that survive in ostensibly “Christian” nations. Often the folk traditions preserve things that are worth recognizing ourselves.

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