Recipe: Getting ready for New Year's Day -- Greek style

by Julie Snyder

Greek-style New Year menuKali Khronia! Have a Good Year! The day's festivities honor Saint Basil, a fourth century bishop known for his generosity.

"In our home, New Year's Day meant taking down the Christmas tree and watching the parades and smelling the fragrant lamb baking in the oven," Bonnie Nikiforakis of New Hampshire shares.

"At mid-day, the leg of lamb came out of the oven and Dad carved it while, the kids circled, asking, 'When will you cut the bread, Dad?' Slicing the Vasilopita and wishing blessings and good luck for all for the coming year started of our feast. It was always fun to see 'who got the coin," she continues.

"New Year's Day dinner isn't complete unless served with rice pilaf, green beans, Greek salad, and a tray of kalmata olives and marinated feta cheese. No one leaves hungry!"

Getting ready for New Year's Day -- Greek style

Your menu

Vasilopita -- Greek New Year's Bread: Bake up this rich sweet bread with a coin hidden inside. Then offer a slice to each family member and then all visitors.

Avgolemono -- Greek lemon chicken soup: That amazing soup with the super-lemony broth served in Greek restaurants is simple to make.

Greek style leg of lamb is non-negotiable at many Greek celebrations. Cook it in the ethnic style with olive oil, spices, and garlic.

Greek green bean with tomato: Soft, but not mushy, cooked in a garlic-tomato sauce, each bite is imbued with savory, garlicky flavor.

Eggplant pastitsio: Ground meat, diced eggplant, tomatoes and spices make the base. Then tubular pasta, cheese sauce and more meat is spread on top. It's baked until bubbly and golden brown.

Horiatiki salata -- traditional Greek salad: A dish packed with chunks of juicy tomatoes, slices of crisp cucumber and red onion, diced green pepper, crumbly feta cheese and clump kalamata olives.

Melomakarona -- honey spice cookies: This oil-based cookie has a moist texture with a hint of orange and brandy. It's bathed in a honey syrup and topped with chopped walnuts.

Greek New Year's Day activities

• Exchange gifts. In Greece, families exchange gifts on the New Year instead of Christmas.
• Cut the bread! Carving of the vasilopita dates back to Kronia, the celebration of the god Kronos and the Saturnalia of Rome. Sweets and cakes were baked with a coin inside. A lucky person found it.
• Gamble. Greeks consider the New Year lucky. The state lottery which raffles 10 million Euros that day.

Does your family have special traditions on New Year's Day?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.