Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Celebrating St. Basil's Day

Today Greeks celebrate the feast of St. Basil. Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great,  was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. He was the first bishop to establish orphanages and hospitals and old age homes.

New Year is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of St Basil's kindness to children and the stories of how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes. He is sometimes associated with Santa Claus, known by some as “Agios Basilis”.

In many Greek homes, a special cake is baked on the eve of St. Basil's Day with a gold or silver coin hidden inside. In the evening, just before midnight strikes and the new year begins, all the lights are turned off for a minute to signify the dawning of a New Year. Wishes for "A Happy New Year!" are given and the cake, or vasilopita (St. Basil's cake) is cut: one slice for St. Basil, one for each family member, one for each of the pets, and then the largest slice of all is cut for the poor people of the world. In one of these slices is hidden the coin, which brings blessings to its recipient throughout the year.

I didn't have time to make a cake for today, so instead will be trying out something entirely different. Cake balls. You turn dried out cake (in our case, rum cake!) into crumbs and mix with frosting. Chill. Roll into balls and dip into melted chocolate. Eat. Sounds decadent even to me!

If the excitement of Christmas is over and you want to have some fun, this is a day to do it. Make the gifts come from either a dollar store or be homemade. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, just fun.

Other fun traditions to do include Hogmanay (with your First Footer) and traditional foods of blackeyed peas and collards. You can find recipes for those (including Hoppin' John) here and here.

From my house to yours:  'Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!' A prosperous New Year!

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