Zakynthian Vasilopita is called
The New Year's bread
The lucky one finds the gold coin
"Vasilopita" may be a term you are familiar with. You may have attended a few events when the fabled New Year's bread was served. Maybe you were there when one fortunate guest found the buried gold coin inside their slice. Why, therefore, is there such a fuss about some sweet bread and a coin? Why, and since when, does it seem that this custom is a part of every New Year's celebration? How then can you participate yourself? We're here to clear everything up.
Where did this custom originate?
All of the origin stories for Vasilopita center around Saint Basil. Our favorite version of the story has Saint Basil pleading with the populace to raise a ransom to release the city of Caesarea from the siege. Astonishing the enemy with such a large act of collective giving that the siege was called off before the money was even collected, each citizen contributed all they could in gold and jewelry. St. Basil baked all the jewelry into loaves of bread and distrusted the loaves to the city because he wanted to return the donated valuables but didn't know what belonged to whom. According to folklore, every citizen miraculously received exactly what they had donated, and there was widespread tranquility.
Vasilopita literally translates to "sweet bread of Basil." Vasilopita bread is made with sweet flavoring in an effort to represent eternal joy and the desire that the coming year be rich in sweetness.
What takes place with Vasilopita?
The head of the home traditionally makes three cuts in the form of the cross on the bread or cake. Jesus Christ receives the first slice, the Virgin Mary gets the second, and St. Basil gets the third. The family hosting the event receives the next slice, after which individual pieces are cut for each member of the family and each guest, going from oldest to youngest. As a reminder to always share a portion of our gifts with those less fortunate, the last piece is sliced for the underprivileged.
A gold coin known as the flouri is baked into the bread during its preparation to represent the gold and jewels in the Vasilopita origin story. It is believed that the person who receives the slice with the coin will be lucky in the upcoming year!