New Year’s celebrates the end of the year and the start of a new one. In many places, this is a time for great celebration. Public parties are held in cities all around the world on New Year’s Eve, where people get together to count down to the New Year at midnight.
New Year’s Eve in Greece is celebrated with many symbolic traditions and the continuation of the Christmas holiday.
One of the traditions celebrated on New Year’s Eve is the singing of Kalanta, the same carols that are sung at Christmas. Children go from house to house on the morning of January 31st singing the carols as good wishes for the new year.
Another continuation of the Christmas holiday is the visit from Agios Vasilis or Saint Basil. Saint Basil is the Greek version of Saint Nicholas or Santa Clause and visits on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas. He is one of the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church and he is seen as a symbol of hope to the less fortunate. Kali Hera, known in English as good hands, is the exchanging of gifts that takes place on this day.
On New Year’s Eve families also gather around for a card playing marathon which starts in the early evening and can go on for hours.
Right before midnight families participate in Kalo Podariko, good footing, by turning off all the lights inside the house and then proceeding outside. One person who is said to be good/lucky then steps into the house with their right foot first and everyone else follows in the same manner. Someone else with a good heart then smashes a pomegranate. The more seeds that appear on the floor, the luckier the year is supposed to be.
There is also the tradition of stepping on mossy stones which is said to bring a prosperous and happy year.
A special cake is baked on New Year’s Eve called Vasilopita. Inside the cake a trinket or coin is supposed to be hidden. Slices are cut and passed out from eldest to youngest and the one who finds the hidden gift receives a small prize.