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Our Legend of Vasilopita. By Ayşe Burcu Atabey February 24, 2013

Posted by usbngo in Older Posts.
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According to the legend, in the old times in a city called Caesereata lived a saint called Vasilis. When the city was under siege of enemies, Saint Vasilis asked all the people in the city to gather their gold and jewelry to pay a ransom in order to save the city. People gave the saint whatever they had as jewelry. Embarrassed of the union of the city people, the enemies called off the siege without taking the ransom. Then, Saint Vasilis was given the difficult task of paying the people back. But it was impossible for him to know which jewelry belonged to whom! He had an idea, though. He was going to make loaves of bread in which he was going to put the jewelry. When they were delivered to the people, by miracle everyone got exactly what they donated before!

Vasilopita tradition, which continues in the modern times, is associated to this legend. Especially in Greece, around east Europe and Balkans, every family cuts Vasilopita at midnight on the New Year’s Eve to bless their house and to bring good luck. Vasilopita can be a kind of bread or cake including many kind of dough and inside it hidden a coin. The one, who cuts the pita, makes the sign of cross with a knife three times on the pita.

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The first piece is for Jesus, the other ones are for Saint Vasilis, some important figures and groups depending on the tradition and the rest are for the family members from the elder to the young. The one who finds the coin inside the cake is considered the lucky one. Nowadays, this person is given a prearranged present- as happened in our Vasilopita Party.

I should tell from the beginning that ours was a highly modernized version of the Vasilopita tradition. Because as United Societies of Balkans we cut our Vasilopita on the 8th of February, long after 1st January, that is the day of Saint Vasilis.

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The shock we had the moment when we saw the sound system would not work upon arriving at Hotel Vergina, where our party for which we had been preparing by making meetings, plans, song lists, promising an unforgettable party with an amazing karaoke night would take place, ended when we noticed how everything was going so well and how people were enjoying! All our friends were there: All the volunteers of United Societies of Balkans, the documentary team, the projects team, representatives of NGOs like Antigone, Thessaloniki Pride, activists from Bulgaria and Italy, environmentalists, the volunteers we met in Thessaloniki Film Festival and in on-arrival seminar in Athina, our Hellenic language teachers, other friends of USB and father of our press officer Alexia… Only my father was not on the premises!

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Everybody was waiting for that moment. Who was going to find the coin? The present was big. USB was going to pay the 30 participation fee of the next youth programme to the one who would find the coin in his piece. I cannot say that I did not try to guarantee that I would get the coin. I thought of asking the cook to sign the place of the coin for me. I even thought of using the X-Ray machine in Macedonian Airport… These were impossible but I managed to find two people willing to give the present to me if they found the coin.

And the moment came. Our beloved president Aris Parashou went behind the Vasilopita which was shining as if it was made of gold and upon making that speech about which I had no idea because it was all in Hellenic, started to cut the delicious Vasilopita. As I observed it before in a good friend’s house, it was not a surprise for me when I saw Aris making three times the sign of cross across the cake with a knife. The first piece was sliced for Jesus, the second for the office and the third for the family of Aris. During the party, as I did not understand the speech of Aris, I put those three pieces inside the plate again and I think I ate the slice of Jesus! Because of me the other two pieces which were saved for the office and the family were also in stomach of somebody as I delivered all the pieces to our guests!

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Our lucky friend Constantine found the coin in his slice and got the present. Have a good trip Constantine. I am so jealous of you!

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What was I telling you about? Yes, the sound system was not good and karaoke night was cancelled but the magnificent Greek – Arabic – Turkish song list was playing and everybody was dancing – pardon chatting in harmony with the rhythm of the music.J And even though we had limited alcohol, some of us were already drunk!

We could not realize all our promises, but still we were glad to gather together with all our friends at a beautiful night for a nice tradition and to see that everyone was having good time. We thank to our president Aris Parashou for giving us the opportunity to organize this event, our volunteer friend Teisutis for organizing it and our guests for joining us in our Vasilopita Party.

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I am still thinking. Do I need to repent for eating the slice of Jesus?

Photo: U.S.B./Ana Maia, Photo editing: Vasiliki Neofotistou

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