Greek New Year

Contrary to modern time beliefs, celebrating the advent of the New Year on January 1st in the cold and the dead nature of winter time is among the most universal celebratory traditions.

The custom of marking the beginning of the New Year is 4,000 years old and has its roots in ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia. From the very ancient city of Babylon these customs were passed on to ancient Greece.

Ancient Greeks were not that much into celebrating the New Year rather than the “sickle of the new moon” upon recognizing the visible new moon as the beginning of each month, a custom held in honour of Selene, Apollon Noumenios, Hestia and the other household Gods, also known as noumenia.

In Athens, however, there was an epigraph found reading of a religious ceremony that used to take place on the beginning of the New Year, or better said on the last day of the outgoing year, which involved only a small number of people. The celebration was a sacrifice of the outgoing officials to Zeus the Saviour and Athena the Saviour, which aimed at ensuring the blessings and favour of the two gods for the coming new year.

“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In modern-day Greece, one will traditionally find a Greek family around the dinner table with an extra pacesetting for St. Basil; people eating vassilopita, a is sweet and savoury bread that is baked especially for the occasion with a gold or silver coin put in it; people hanging onions or pomegranates on to their front door to symbolise fertility; people collecting mossy stones as a good omen or talisman; and people practising kalo podariko, that is, the tradition of First Footing – it is believed that the first person who sets foot inside a home in the New Year determines the kind of luck that the household will experience the rest of the year; therefore, it is believed that a First Footer should be a person with a kind and loving heart, and as such, a child is often made a First Footer as they are often associated with having pure, innocent and honest hearts.

On the Old Year

“As the old year draws to a close, one can’t help but reflect on what hasn’t been done and what can never be reclaimed. Say what you will about this year, it is lost, it is gone. And as I look around me, I can honestly say there is no group that I would rather be with, to face the grim spectre of death, racing with blinding speed, so inexorably towards us.”

– Richard Solomon