Every new year, pretty much all the Greeks, at least the ones I know, prepare, or buy and cut a Vasilopita to celebrate the new year.
It is an ancient tradition that honors St Basil.
A pita, or a cake with a coin in it, is cut into slices representing the New Year, St Basil, the Family, as well as each member of the family. Whoever gets the coin has good luck for the rest of the year.
When our kids were small we had to cut at least three pies, and I had to manage the cutting so they all won coins.
The pitas vary depending on the regions, some are more bread like others more cakelike, the decoration is usually the year or a New Years greeting, with almonds and sesame seeds…at least Mama’s were like that.
This year Jeannine didn’t get a chance to make her own, I went to the bakery in town and found this weird one…I didn’t buy it, it was much too creepy for me, I bought a plain one.
It had a bizarre effect on me, it immediately took me back 70 years, and it made me think of my father and his friends. Our pita was cut at midnight exactly, with the sign of the cross, all the appropriate blessings and all the anticipation of who would win the coin. I think Pop maneuvered it so the store was the winner frequently (good for the whole family).
This weird pita had some playing cards (real ones), an ashtray, edible, as well as two cigars in the ashtray…made of chocolate.
It reminded me of Pop and his friends that played poker after the pita was cut and they all smoked cigars.
70 years come racing back because of a Vasilopita proudly displayed in a bakery window.
Playing cards an ashtray and cigars…should have had a tsiporo glass as well, since they drank, pretty much all night.
Thinking about it now, I should have bought that pita.
I am going to go there today and see if he still has it.