The new year is just hours away and the whole world is getting ready to celebrate the arrival of 2021. Each and every one of us is going to celebrate this arrival differently as every people has different customs. In Crete, we have maintained some customs throughout the years. The most common one is the new year cake which is called Vasilopita in Greek. It is one of the few primitive customs that survive to this day. It is said that it is the evolution of the ancient custom of offering festive bread to the Gods in big rural holidays. The cake includes a hidden coin and whoever finds it in his/her slide is going to be lucky in the new year.
Another custom is about an onion that is very common in Crete. If you take this wild onion (scilla Maritima) off the ground and hang it somewhere it continues to produce new leaves and flowers. People believe that this great vital force can be transmitted to animate and inanimate objects that is why they bring it to their houses on new year’s eve. It’s a custom dating back to the 6th-century b.c and it symbolizes good luck. Unfortunately, very few people still do this.
The breaking of pomegranate is also a custom. The pomegranate symbolizes good luck, fertility and abundance. People used to hang one in their homes from fall and after church, on the first day of the year they threw it with force at the doorstep shouting: “Happy New Year!”. It is also used on new year’s eve by the person that enters the house while the year is changing. This person must then enter the house with the right foot first, so in the new year, everything will be “right” - lucky. This is called podariko which means give somebody a good start.
Lastly, in the old times, there were no toy stores and people didn’t have money, so when kids came for a visit they would receive treats or pastry as a gift. This is called kali Chera - good hand in free translation. After some years the treats and pastry turned to a small amount of money that the children and grandchildren receive until today.
These are some of the customs we keep in order to “make” the new year lucky. If you believe in these things or not we hope that the new year brings you health and happiness to you and your loved ones and maybe a trip to Crete if your heart wishes to.
Happy New Year!!