By Catherine Tsounis
The Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, NY held the traditional Vasilopita service on Sunday, January 8, 2023. Rev. Economos Father Andrew D. Cadieux performed the service, blessing the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox Church of America, community, and parish council leaders. A coffee hour followed with a General Assembly meeting and elections. For further information, contact ATTI[email protected] & WWW.TRANSFIGURATIONOFCHRIST.COM.
On January 1st we observe a tradition, both in our churches and in our homes, which has been handed down since the fourth century. It is the baking and cutting of the sweet bread (or cake) known as the Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα), named after St Basil the Great. He was made Bishop of Cappadocia in Caesarea and was the first to establish orphanages, hospitals, and age-care homes. This all began in the Byzantine Empire that lasted over one thousand years.
During a catastrophic depression, the emperor put an excessive tax on the people of Caesarea. To avoid prison, the people had to hand over whatever they had: coins and jewelry. St Basil, on learning of this injustice, came to his people’s defense. The emperor repented of his deed and instructed the tax collectors to hand over all the wealth to St Basil.
Faced with the dilemma of not knowing who contributed what, St Basil returned each person their valuables by having them baked into a huge ‘pita.’ After the Divine Liturgy, he blessed the pita, and each person’s slice miraculously contained the money or jewels they had contributed.
In remembrance of this miracle, Orthodox Christians bake the Vasilopita on St Basil’s feast day, January 1st, the date on which he reposed. On January 1st, churches, and homes, bake and cut sweet bread (or cake) known as the Vasilopita (Βασιλόπιτα), named after St Basil the Great.1 Whoever wins the coin has good luck for the year.
Vasilopita Recipe from Cyprus
1 CUP MAZOLA OIL
1 CUP MILK
1 ½ CUP SUGAR
3 CUPS FLOUR
2 TSPS. BAKING POWDER
1 GRATED LEMON PEEL
Beat eggs, Mazola oil, milk, and sugar for 7 minutes. Add flour, baking powder, and grated lemon peel. Place in a greased floured pan. Bake 1 ¼ hours in a 350-degree oven. Brush with powdered sugar after baking.