Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Ritual

As far back as I can remember when ringing in the New Year, my mother would bake a Greek cake or sweet bread called a 'vasilopita.' What made this 'cake' so special was the hidden coin thrown into the cake batter prior to baking. As a child, it was all about getting the 25 cents, or in later years the loonie (Canadian dollar coin). I never cared much for the actual cake. It was just a plain white cake studded with raisins, flavoured with orange zest and sprinkled with icing sugar. No chocolate chips. No frosting. No whipped cream. No fun. I often pleaded with my mother to add chocolate chips in it so I would be more inclined to eat it instead of crumbling it up in search of the coin, and then leaving it on my plate. Her response was always the same: "This is a Greek cake and I am not changing the recipe by adding chocolate chips."

On New Year's day, I'll be heading over to my parents house for - you guessed it - the cutting of the vasilopita cake. This is one instance where I will stick to my new year's resolution of cutting back on desserts. I will have my slice of cake but I won't be eating it :)

If you want to learn more about this tradition, I have inserted a blurb below from Wikipedia.

"Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα) is a traditional New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of doughs, depending on regional and family tradition, including tsoureki.

On New Year's Day families cut the Vassilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. A coin is wrapped and hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, in order of age. Slices are also cut for various other people or groups, depending on local and family tradition. They may include St. Basil and other saints, the Virgin Mary, the Church, the poor, the king (formerly), and the Kallikantzaroi (Καλλικάντζαρος), commonly translated as goblins.

Saint Basil's Feast Day is observed on January 1, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season known as the Vasilopita Observance."

Here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year 2009!!


kalliope said...

We'll cut our Vasilopita tomorrow, and I will add a piece for "the economy". Is there a Saint for the Economy? Good luck to you, and all the best for 2009!

kickpleat said...

hooray for 2009!

Bijoux said...

Thanks Kalliope!!
Wishing a great new year to you and your family! The economy can use all the help it can get and a slice of cake should help it go down easily. I think it's a great idea!! The dollar coin from the 'vasilopita' fell into the piece that was allotted to my new house. LOL I think it was my mother's plan all along ;-)

kickpleat: Wishing you and your family a healthy and prosperous year ahead. May you eat good cake and be merry :)

cserdan said...

Thank you for sharing your tradition!

A close family friend of ours was Finnish and she always used to make the most delicious homemade donuts, filled with jam, and a special one filled with mustard.

Hope the coin helps you out with your new house.

Happy new year!

Bijoux said...

cserdan: Homemade doughnuts! It can't get better than that! My husband is Polish and he introduced me to these great jam-filled super poofy doughnuts called "ponchkie". We pick some up whenever we are visiting the Roncesvalles (Polish) neighbourhood. I have yet to come across any mustard-filled ones...but oddly enough, I am intrigued :)

Laurie Constantino said...

count me as another person who has never cared for vasilopita (although antonia's grandmother's recipe in my cookbook for vasilopita with dates is pretty good). i do love rituals however, and this is a good one
on another note, i'm really liking your haircut

Bijoux said...

Laurie: I put my piece of vasilopita with the coin in it, in the freezer. Now, if it were chocolate cake vasilopita, I would have eaten it by now and maybe the coin too, in my greedy haste.
Thanks for the compliment. I'm liking the haircut too although it seems I'm always due for a haircut every two months now, just to keep the shape.