Greece > “Kladaria” (the brushwood event)

“Kladaria” is the name of one of the customs which relate to the twelve-day-period from Christmas to Epiphany.

The necessary preparations, however, start as early as October. More specifically, on the next day of the religious feast of Aghios Dimitrios [Saint Dimitrios], i.e. on 27th of October, children and teenagers provide for the raw material of this event, they run into the fields and the mountain slopes in order to collect brushwood and dead herbs. They mainly look for cedar branches as they have a special scent. The brushwood is stored in a dry place and remains there until it loses its moisture and dries up.

On 23rd of December, the preparations start as early as midday. The brushwood is piled up in huge heaps in the open space where this rite is going to take place. The oldest inhabitant of the village lights the branches in the evening. Then, the locals form a dancing ring around the fire. In some regions, men with bells hanging off their body turn around the fire thus lending a character of an ancient Greek, Bacchic event to these ritual ceremonies which along with the scent of cedars create a very special atmosphere. In some regions of Voio, the branches light up during the Carnival period, or more specifically, on Cheese-Fare Sunday.

The customs of Cephalonia, Greece, on the day of the Epiphany

New Year’s Day puts an end to the stress caused by various festivities, obligations, hectic preparations and religious rituals.

During this period of relaxation, hobgoblins, known as “Kalikantzaroi” in Greek, pop up and take the chance to get into mischief in the towns and villages they wander around. According to local tradition, they look like young children and are called “pagana”, pixies. The women of Cephalonia island burn incense at the front door of their houses and make the sign of the cross over it three times in order to exorcise these spirits.

On Cephalonia, the solemn blessing of the waters takes place on the eve of the Epiphany. Before priest’s arrival, the women take the ashes of the fireplace or the wood heater out of the house.

On the day of the Epiphany, January 6th, the local women knead bread which is also known as “Fotitsa”. The term “Fota” or “Theophania” is synonym of the word Epiphany in Greek.

Greece and Cyprus > New Year Traditions

January 1st is an important date in both Greece and Cyprus because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also Saint Basil’s Day.

Saint Basil the Great, equivalent to Santa Claus, was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. New Year is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of Saint 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.

Greeks have a christian name that is the name of a religious figure or a Saint. On the religious calendar each day has a different feast and people celebrate their name-day accordingly. January 1st is Saint Basil’s Day which is the celebration day for those named Vassilios and Vassiliki. On name-days and Saint Basil’s day people visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts, not just for those whose name-day it was but also for those who’s name day it isn’t. On these visits they have a big feast of food, drinks and music.

There are many special dishes that are prepared at New Year but the most important dish is Vassilopitta or Saint Basil’s cake, inside the cake is placed a silver or gold coin, meant for good-luck throughout the year for the lucky person who finds it into his/her piece of Vassilopitta.

New Year traditions in Europe

European New Year
In Europe the custom of first-footing is practised.
This is where the first person to enter the house after midnight must be male and is supposed to bring good luck to the household. The visitor is supposed to bring a gift such as money, bread, or coal, these are supposed to ensure the family will have plenty of these in the coming year. Throughout the world the custom of making noise to ring in the New Year has not gone untouched as this was supposed to scare off any evil spirits. Today any noise is used such as clackers, toy trumpets, whistles, and bells are party favors given to guests to use when the New Year has rung in. In Greece, and in particular in the northern area of Macedonia, church bells ring in the New Year. In Europre, the New Year was a time for superstition and fortune-telling.

Austria
In Austria 1691 Pope Innocent XII declared January 1 to be New Year’s Day. In Austria, New Year’s Eve is called Sylvesterabend which is the Eve of Saint Sylvester. They make a punch made of cinnamon, sugar, and red wine in honor of him. Taverns and inns are decorated with evergreen wreaths. Confetti, streamers, and champagne are also part of New Year’s Eve. Evil spirits of the old year are chased away by the firing of morters called boller. Midnight mass is attended and trumpets are blown from church towers at midnight. People exchange kisses. There are fireworks in larger cities.

Belgium
In Belgium New Year’s Eve is called
Sint Sylvester Vooranvond or Saint Sylvester Eve. The reveillon or New Year’s Eve family parties are thrown. At midnight everyone kisses, exchanges good luck greetings, and drinks toasts to absent relatives and friends. The cities, cafes, and restaurants are crowded with people who bid farewell to the Old Year.

Britain
In Britain
the custom of first footing is practised. The first male visitor to the house after midnight is usually supposed to bring good luck. Usually they bring a gift like money, bread, or coal, which is done to ensure the family will have plenty of these things all the year to come. The first person must not be blond, red-haired or a woman as these people are supposedly bad luck.

Denmark
In Denmark it is a
good sign to find your door heaped with a pile of broken dishes at New Years. Old dishes are saved year around to throw them at the homes where their friends live on New Years Eve. Many broken dishes are a symbol that you have many friends. New Year’s Eve is framed by two important items broadcast on television and radio, respectively the Monarch’s New Year Speech at 6pm and the striking of midnight by the Town Hall Clock in Copenhagen, which marks the start of the New Year.

France
French New Year or Jour des Etrennes or Day of New Year’s Presents.
In France dinner parties are thrown for the entire family. People exchange presents and greeting cards. People began sending fake gifts on April 1st which originally culminated in the New Year feast, of course these gifts were only as a joke on those who previously had received their etrennes or New Year’s gifts, on that day.

Germany
In Germany,
on New Year’s Eve called Sylvester, people would drop molten lead into cold water and try to tell the future from the shape it made. A heart or ring shape meant a wedding, a ship a journey, and a pig plenty of food in the year ahead. People also would leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on their plate until after midnight as a way of ensuring a well-stocked larder. Carp was included as it was thought to bring wealth. 

Greece
January 1 is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also Saint Basil’s Day.
Saint Basil the Great was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. New Year is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of Saint 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. Greeks have a Christian name that is the name of a religious figure or a Saint. On the religious calendar each day has a different feast and people celebrate their name-day accordingly. January 1st is Saint Basil’s Day which is the day for those named Vassilios and Vassiliki. On name-days and Saint Basil’s day people visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts, not just for those whose name-day it was but also for those who’s name day it isn’t. On these visits they have a big feast of food, drinks and music. There are many special dishes that are prepared at New Year but the most important dish is Vassilopitta or Saint Basil’s cake, inside the cake is placed a silver or gold coin.

Ireland
The Irish New Year festival is known as Samhain
which meant summer ends and was celebrated on October 31. The festival has survived as halloween. It was at this time they hold their General Assembly. This was held in the out in the air parliament where the laws were renewed and accounts of events, details of births, deaths and marriages, were recorded.

The Netherlands
In the Netherlands people burn Christmas trees on street bonfires
and let off fireworks to ring in the New Year and as a way of driving out the spirits of the old year.

Portugal
The Portugese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch
as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve. This is done to ensure twelve happy months in the coming year. In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins. They sing old songs or Janeiro’s which is said to bring good luck.

Scandinavian
The traditions of the January’s New Year are connected
with the old winter festivities of the Scandinavian norsemen. They used to involve time and light, and were thought to encourage the sun to return.

Spain
When the clock stricks midnight the Spanish eat 12 grapes
one with every toll to bring good luck for 12 months for the New Year. Sometimes the grapes are washed down with wine. Theater productions and movies are interrupted to carry out this custom.

Sweden
The Swedish New Year celebrations is no different than in most parts
of the world. They drink champagne and watch fireworks and make New Year resolutions no one keeps. The Swedish go to church, go to smargasbords and drink spicy glogg.

Greek New Year’s Carols

Here are the lyrics to the Greek New Year’s Carols >

In Greek > 

Ayios Vasilis erhete
Ke den mas katadehete
Apo, apo tin Kessaria.
Si sa arhon, si sa arhondissa Kiria!
Vastaei penna ke harti
Zaharokandio zimoti
Harti, harti ke kalamari
Des kai eme, des kai eme, to pallikari!

To kalamari egrafe
Ti mira tou tin elege
Ke to, ke to harti milouse
To hriso, to hriso mas kariofili!

Arhiminia ki arhihronia
Psili mou dendrolivania,
Ke arhi, ke arhi kalos mas hronos.
Eklisia, eklisia, me t’ ayio throno!

Arhi pou vgike o Hristos
Ayios ke Pnevmatikos,
Sti gi, gi na perpatisi
Ke na mas, ke na mas kalokardisi!

In English >

Saint Basil comes,
And does not acknowledge us
From Caesarea.
You are, you are the mistress of the house!

He holds a pen and paper
And leavened sweets
Paper, paper and ink.
Look at me, look at me, the brave one!

The ink wrote
And told fortunes,
And the, and the paper spoke.
Our golden, our golden clove!

It is the first day of the month and the year,
My tall rosemary,
And from, and from the beginning a good year for us.
The church, the church with the holy throne!

Christ came in the beginning,
Holy and Spiritual;
On earth, on earth he walked
To give us, to give us good cheer!

New Year Traditions > Greek New Year

January 1st is an important date in Greece and Cyprus because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also Saint Basil’s Day.

Saint Basil the Great, the Greek equivalent to Santa Claus, was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. New Year is perhaps even more festive and important then Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of Saint 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.

Greeks have a Christian name that is the name of a religious figure or a Saint. On the religious calendar each day has a different feast and people celebrate their name-day accordingly. January 1st is Saint Basil’s Day which is the day for those named Vassilios and Vassiliki. On name-days and Saint Basil’s day people visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts, not just for those whose name-day it was but also for those whose name day it isn’t. On these visits they have a big feast of food, drinks and music.

There are many special dishes that are prepared at New Year but the most important dish is Vassilopitta or Saint Basil’s cake, inside the cake is placed a silver or gold coin. The cake is distributed in accordance to a strict order. First piece is for Saint Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member and also including absent members. There may also be a piece of cake for the cattle and a large piece for the poor. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.

As well as the Saint Basil’s cake there is usually an abundance of food on the table including kourabiedes shortbread and diples, there is always honey on the table and olive-branches, nuts, fresh fruit and other symbols of happiness and wealth.

On New Year’s Eve the children sing carols and also on New Year’s Day. The first person across the threshold of the house on New Year’s Day is said to bring the family good luck throughout the coming year. The father, son or a lucky child was meant to be the first person across the threshold. A lucky child was someone who has both parents still alive.

According to an old tradition, Greek New Year’s Day too many is still September 1st for it is this date that they start of the Greek sowing season, a time of hope and promise. To start the New Year off right farmers’ families take plates of seeds to church for the priest to bless.

In Kos island people make first-of-the-year wreaths of pomegranates, grapes, quinces, garlic bulbs, and plane-tree leaves. Just before dawn on September 1st, the children carry their households’ wreaths down to the shore, the old year’s wreaths and the new ones, and they throw the old ones out to sea and immerse the New Year wreaths for good luck. Then they carry seawater and pebbles home in a jar, to serve with the wreaths as protective devices. Tradition calls for exactly 40 pebbles and water collected from the tops of exactly 40 waves.

In Rhodes island the first-of-the-year wreaths are made of walnuts, onions, garlic, grapes, tufts of cotton, and cloth bags full of grain from the fields. The year’s sowing, it is said, can begin only after the wreath has been hung up.

Girls in Greece once ate something salty before going to bed. They did this because they believed it would help them to dream about their future husband.

The New Year Cake came from the story about Saint Basil who it is said told how he helped the poor people to pay their taxes. The story goes that he took some jewelry from each person and gave it to the Governor. The Governor was sorry for the poor people and so he gave the jewelry back, they only problem was Basil did not know who owned each piece of jewelry. This is when it is told the miracle occurred. He baked each piece inside a loaf and when the loaves were given out, everyone had their own jewelery in the piece of loaf.

Pass the peas and pop some grapes

Eating serving of pork also thought to bring good fortunes

When it comes to allaying our anxiety about the coming year, we look to pleasurable activities as favorite harbingers of good fortune. Many revelers will reach for a flute of Champagne, or some variation on the French sparkling wine. Others will reach for a bowl of Hoppin’ John, pop grapes into their mouths or slice into a braised pork chop.

In Denmark, there will be boiled cod. In Brazil, as in Italy, chances are residents will be spooning up a lucky bowl of lentils. In Greece and Cyprus, it’s a piece of cake, containing a lucky gold coin. For the Vietnamese, watermelon is a sign of luck because of its red flesh. People even dye the seeds red and serve them as delicacies.

But as midnight falls, progressing with hourly precision around the globe, we have faith that all will be well. And we, as do you, hope for a safe New Year’s Eve, and a happy 2007.

Grapes > The practice of eating 12 grapes at midnight is popular in Spain. As the story goes, at the turn of the 20th century, Spain experienced a gigantic grape harvest. This harvest was so huge that the year was marked as one of great luck. Now, with each strike of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Spaniards put grapes into their mouths. This event is broadcast on television, so everyone can do it in concert. Another grape is eaten in celebration of lucky years past and in hope of a lucky year to come. The grape-eating tradition also is followed in other countries, including Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela.

Saint Basil’s cake > To many in the South, eating greens on New Year’s means you’ll have green in your wallet all year. To the Brazilians and Italians, lentils are served because they can be considered coin-shaped. In Greece and Cyprus, however, a real coin is baked into the Saint Basil’s cake, or Vassilopita.

One legend says it started because of the notoriously high taxes levied during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Saint Basil tried to return the money to the people, but they started arguing over who was owed what. So he asked the women to bake a large cake with the coins inside. When he sliced the cake, the money found its way back to its rightful honors. Another legend says Saint Basil wanted the rich in his congregation to bake cakes with coins in them for the poor. That way, the poor wouldn’t feel like beggars but would have a little more money for their needs. Today, one coin is baked into the cake, which is cut shortly before midnight by the head of the household. Whoever finds the coin will be blessed with good fortune in the year to come.

Sticky rice and long noodles > For the Japanese, New Year’s is a major celebration that lasts three days. It’s also a time to party without a care in sight, which means that food lasting until January 3rd has to be prepared before midnight December 31. Bonenkai, or year forgetting, parties include visits to Buddhist temples where food is offered to the gods.

Each dish is made for a different purpose. Some are said to bring a good harvest, others are for fertility. Long soba noodles are popular, because it is thought that if you can suck up one without breaking it, then you will have a long life. Mochi rice, which is sticky in nature, is pressed into cakes called omochi, which are broiled or eaten in soup. Large omochi are first offered to the gods, then cut into pieces and eaten by the family because they are thought to bring luck as well as good health.

Pork > The custom of having pork on New Year’s Day can be found in cultures across the globe. For the Italians, it’s pork sausage over lentils in a dish called cotechino con lenticchie. For the Pennsylvania Dutch and many Germans, it’s pork and sauerkraut. Other Germans as well as the Polish like to eat pickled herring at midnight, but who really wants their lips on a cold fish at such a romantic moment?

Pork and pork fat both are incorporated into many Southern Hoppin’ John recipes, while Cajuns include pork in jambalaya. The Vietnamese serve a rice pudding known as banh chung or banh tet that contains mung beans and pork. And though the Chinese don’t share the same New Year’s Day as Western society, they, too, start off the year with pork in dishes including dumplings, buns (cha siu bao) and ginger pork.

Champagne > Why has Champagne at midnight become almost the worldwide symbol of welcoming in the new year? Perhaps because the wine was available mostly to Royalty in its early days, or because it survived through hard times, not to mention two World Wars. Or perhaps it is simply that it is bright, rich and effervescent. Just as we wish ourselves to be in the year to come.

Looking for a toast to offer this weekend or just any time? Here’s one from an anonymous source: “To my friends: Friends we are today, and friends we’ll always be, for I am wise to you, and you can see through me”.

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