New Year’s Eve in Santorini - Santorini Yachting Club
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New Year’s Eve in Santorini

New Year’s Eve in Santorini
10 Dec 2022

Santorini is one of the most sought-after destinations throughout the year, however, few visitors witness the stunning Greek island in its winter glory. If you wonder what it is like spending the end of the year in Santorini, we will give you a little insight into the most important Greek New Year’s Eve customs and traditions. 

Smashing pomegranate for good fortune

In Greece, the pomegranate has always been symbolic of prosperity and abundance and many homes have decorative baubles portraying the fruit year-round. One of the most interesting traditions surrounding New Year’s Eve in Greece, however, is the practice of smashing a pomegranate at the doorway as a means to make way for good fortune in the coming year. They say that the more seeds that burst out, the more good fortune the person who smashed it will acquire. Likewise, gifting a pomegranate or an object symbolic of one makes for the perfect holiday present.

New Year’s Eve carols

Singing Christmas carols (kalanta) on New Year’s Eve is a deep-rooted tradition all over Greece, including Santorini. Kalanta is said to originate from Byzantine times. The singers would go from house to house to sing religious folk songs accompanied by guitar or harmonica. Their performance was rewarded with a couple of coins or biscuits. In antiquity, children would sing songs to Dionysus, offering the people in the villages olive branches which meant to symbolize peace and prosperity. The olive branch would be hung on the doors where it would remain for the rest of the year. 

Hanging onions by the door

Onions are considered the ultimate sign of fertility in Greek culture. On New Year’s Eve, families will hang an onion by the door as a symbol of growth and rebirth. One caveat is that this tradition must be done after the family attends the New Year’s Eve mass. On New Year’s Day, parents often wake up their children by tapping them on the head with an onion or placing one on their head.

Family card games

According to Greek folklore dating back to ancient times, the new year will not go well if one does not play cards on New Year’s Eve. In addition to the state lottery which raffles millions of euros on New Year's Day, people play cards and roll dice in coffeehouses, clubhouses and homes throughout the country. In Greek homes though, the betting sum (if being set at all) is usually kept low to avoid any family drama on the day of celebration.

Vasilopita - Greek New Year’s Eve cake

Vasilopita is a delicious New Year’s Eve sponge cake garnished with a glossy vanilla-scented sugar glaze. It is traditionally served at midnight to celebrate the life of St. Basil, an Orthodox bishop remembered by the Greek people as the figure who bore gifts and helped children and the poor at Christmas time. Upon making the vasilopita, a coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. On New Year's Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. The person who finds the coin will be granted good fortune throughout the entire year. 

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