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Honey sweets and coin in the bread for lucky New Year

01 January 2011 / 18:01:18  GRReporter
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Christmas holidays in Greece are associated with the taste of honey sweets, breaking the New Year's loaf with the coin, the New Year's Eve card game for good luck, and in many places - especially in the islands – you could see the children decorate a boat instead of Christmas tree.

The New Year scent comes with the first appearance of honey sweets in pastry shops around the beginning of December and a few days before Christmas confectioners make magical goodies and temptingly arrange them in the windows of their shops.
Greeks are fond of good feed but the peak is during the New Year holidays when they as if compete how many honey sweets or other syrupy pastries would fit their stomachs. And because Christmas goodies have their story we from decided to find it out but also to see what the crisis changed this year.

So, we turned to a young man who loves and knows his work - he grew up in his father’s bakery and now he is engaged in this. Dimitris Grivas is 30 years old and he has been working in his own bakery shop in the city center for 15 years. He attended seminars in France and Italy after graduating from the bread school and now he takes care his customers in Ano Petralona be smiling and happy with the sweets and breads he and his ‘magicians’ of sweets make.

How many Christmas cakes have you made this year?

We have made 800 Christmas cakes in our shop this year - Vasilopita, for the past three days. We begin to make Christmas cakes three days before December 31. We sold cookies - a tonne, tonne and a half and the same quantity of honey noodles in the last month.

What has changed this year compared to the last because of the economic crisis?

Last year we made cakes of two to three kilos while this year the cakes we made were half to a kilo, because if people could pay 30 euros last year this year they can not afford to pay more than 15 euros. They will not refuse to buy New Year's cake, but they will buy a smaller one. We need to think about it as professionals, because customers can not afford to buy cakes for 30 euros this year and we decided to make smaller cakes so that everyone can buy a cake.

You have been working as a confectioner for a long time. How do you think the things, the people’s habits have evolved concerning the holiday season?

They have become more demanding. About five years ago we decorated dough on top of the bread and wrote Happy New Year but now people want chocolate decoration on top, colourful decorating figures – Santas, Christmas trees. They want the goodies to be elegant. It's nice, because we become better at our work. We made many sweets with chestnut, cookies with chocolate, honey sweets with chestnuts and amarena.

Tell me what are the traditional sweets which are prepared in Greece for the New Year holidays?

Typical Greek custom is the kneading of Vasilokoulouro, which is bread, a round loaf made before the New Year. It is believed that this tradition started more than 150 years ago. We put anise in the traditional round loaf and make it with yellow and white flour, put a dough cross on top and a nut in the middle. This is symbolic because the nut symbolizes prosperity. We make not only New Year's cake in Greece but also Christmas cookies - the so called diples or doodle cookies, honey noodles and biscuits. The recipe for the honey noodles dates back to ancient Greece - we know that they made a kind of honey sweets or syrup sweets at that time. They made the cookies mostly in the mountain villages, because they had animals there - sheep and goats, and they made butter that put in the cookies. They are made mostly of butter that gives their nice flavour. So, the cookies have spread throughout Greece as a Christmas custom from the mountain villages. The so-called diples were made in the Peloponnese - they are made from dough that is rolled out to a thin layer, then it is put in the pan to fry and bubbles appear on the dough while frying. We take it out from the pan when ready, dip it in the syrup and let it absorb, then pour honey, crushed nutmeg and cinnamon. The cake for St. Basil (Vasilopita) with the coin is not a typical Greek custom, but it has become a part of our tradition. Traditionally, sweet bread with coin is made for the New Year in Greece. There are also very modern cakes we have made in recent years. One of them is rolled up sponge-cake filled with chocolate. We put it in the icebox and when take it out we decorate it with chocolate, whipped cream, chocolate sticks and whatever else comes to our mind.


Tags: NewsSocietyNew YearCakes Honey sweetsBread with coinLuckTraditionsCustoms
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