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!!