New Year's Day, the 1st day of the new year and the Name day for Saint
Basil, is another big celebration in Greece. The traditional Kalada (carols for New
Years) can be heard early in the morning everywhere. In some areas the Kalada are
also sung New Year's Eve.
The night before the old year gives its place to the new, the families gather and play lucky games. They play for the sake of a good year to come. Even kids are playing cards with their parents or with their siblings for fun. At midnight when the year changes everybody hugs and kisses each other, wishing for the new year to bring happiness and health.
The next morning in many places in Greece there is the tradition of Bounamathes (bouna-MA-thes). The adults in the family, give money to the kids, wishing them happy new year.
In most parts of Greece gifts are exchanged on New Year's Day and not on Christmas. St. Basil (Άγιος Βασίλης) in Greece is considered the equivalent of St. Nick in other parts of the world. That's why gifts are exchanged on this day.
The PotharikoThe biggest event for a household is the ποδαρικό (pothari-KO). With this tradition a child that is considered lucky or the first born son of a family or sometimes the man of the house himself must be the first to step over the threshold of the house with their right foot. The Greeks believe that this will bring luck to the household the whole year. In some areas of Greece this person holds a pomegranate - Indian apple (ρόδι = RO-thi), and they brake it at the door while entering. The seeds which are scattered, symbolize the happiness and the good fortune for the house.
The Vasilopita (cake for St. Basil)There is no house in Greece on New Year's Day without a vasilopita (vasi-LO-pita = βασιλόπιτα) on the table. This is a cake that has a coin inside. Whoever gets the coin in their slice is considered the lucky person for the year. There is a way in which the father of the house cuts and distributes each piece.
The first piece goes for St. Basil, the second is for Jesus Christ, the third is for the poor people, and the fourth is for the household.
Then the rest of the pieces go to the Father, Mother and the children according to their age. If anyone else is there, they also get a piece.
New Year's Day is also the first important religious holiday of the year. The next religious celebration is the Epiphany.