Season of Gifts

Did you know that Santa Clause is named Agios Vassilis in Greek?  Did you always wonder why Santa Clause can actually visit so many houses in one day? Well I am here to answer that question to you.

The truth behind of the Great Mystery of all lies that out there there isn't only one Santa Clause. Depending where you are from there is another saint to bring the gifts. So in France Pere Noel will be the one to bring you gifts, in other parts of the world it is Saint Nicholas who will come to you.

So here in Greece we have Saint Basil, or Agios Vassilis for short. Agios Vassilis starts he journey from his home land in Kaissaria what is now called Kayseri in Kappadokia. He might not have a lavish house in the North Pole, he  might have not elves to help them, but he has a great love of Children and has a great message to spread. His journey starts in the night of the 31st of December right when the clock strikes midnight...the lights get off for a moment and the gifts appear right in the Christmas tree or in the Christmas Boat that we like to decorate for Christmas.

But beware!! If children are awake that time...he might not live a present...You see, our Agios Vassilis is a very humble saint. He wears his cape and covers himself and he doesn't want to be seen, he doesn't want to be thanked in person. He wants to remain hidden and watch from afar all those children who smile with gratitude. What a great person he is.

By now you should already know that on New Year's Day we have another tradition. In new years day, after exchanging gifts, all the family gathers around the table and share a piece of Vassilopita (Saint Basils' Pie). Vassilopita depending the area you live and traditions they have its a pie with a secret lucky coin on it. In the past that coin was made of gold.

The most popular Vassilopita in Thessaloniki is made by the same dough of the Tsoureki. Its a sweet dough consisting of  Mahleb, Cardamon and sometimes Mastic. A variation of this cake can be found all over the Balkans. It has a simple decoration and looks like the following picture:

The last few years you can find Vassilopita in the bakeries of Thessaloniki with more traditional recipes and with a lavish decoration. From Simple home made decoration like the previous picture to extravagant pieces of art. Back to the tradition, so every family starts to cut pieced from that cake, the older or the youngest of the family get to choose which piece will go where, the first piece goes to Jesus Christ who was recently born, the second piece will to the Holly Mother of Christ and the third piece will go to the House of the family. Then one by one piece will be given to the family members that are present. Whoever find the lucky coin in his piece, it is said to have a lucky and prosperous year.

A great Tradition and a great idea to bring back home when you are visiting Greece in New Year's Eve. If you like you can make your own Vassilopita following the recipe of Chef Peretziki or if you are visiting Thessaloniki you can buy one from the most notorious places for Vassilopita like Terkenlis who is famous for his Tsoureki, or try the traditional almond version of Ble and of course there you will find the most extravagant decorated Vassilopita cakes in the city. Choose the one covered with white chocolate and filling of Chestnut...or maybe the one with Milk chocolate inside and hazelnut praline inside...I am drooling. Don't be scared by the prices those two shops are unique and expensive, you can find more competitive prices and great flavours as well at the local Bakeries all over the city.

It's a Season of Gifts. So our small symbolic gift for this season is a free Travel Guide of Thessaloniki. You can download Thessaloniki's Free Travel Guide by clicking here. It's the official Travel Guide of Thessaloniki from the National Tourism Organisation and the Tourism Office of Thessaloniki. We hope it will help and you guide you well.

Don't forget! Should you need Tips or Trips I am here to help you!
Welcome to Thessaloniki
and Happy New Year!!

Ps: "Don't forget the Fire works show on midnight 31 December at the New Sea front (Nea paralia) at 23:59 (or from any terrace of the city), and Lena's Party on the 31st of December at Lena's Bistro from 14:00 to 22:00, see you there ask for Lisa"