Some are ancient and some are new, but New Year’s traditions in Crete are all very special. If you are traveling to Crete before or after New Year’s Day, here are some customs you’ll want to look out for.
New Year’s Traditions in Crete
Like any place in the world, Crete cherishes its own New Year’s traditions. Some date back to ancient Greece and some are modern-day traditions that are similar to other places in the world. A lot of them have to do with hoping for good luck.
8 New Year’s Traditions in Crete
1) In Greece, the traditional day to receive presents from St. Basil or Agios Vasilis is not on the Christmas. Greece’s version of Santa Claus comes around on New Year’s Day.
2) In Greece, New Year’s Day is considered a lucky day. In response, the state has a special lottery and many Cretans will buy lottery tickets. If you walk around squares or coffee houses, you’ll likely find people rolling dice or playing cards to try their good luck.
3) The New Year’s Day cake is a tradition that dates back to ancient Greece. A sweet cake is baked with a coin inside called a flouri. Cretan families ceremoniously cut the cake and distribute the pieces in a particular order. The first piece of cake is set aside symbolically for Christ, the second is set aside for the household, and then pieces are given in a certain order to everyone present. The person who has the coin in his/her piece is said to have luck for the year.
4) New Year’s is a time to party in modern day Crete. During the first night of the year all bars and clubs are packed with young people. In Crete, it is common for late night partiers to eat a street food sweet called bougatsa which is a crispy custard pie.
5) Podariko is another tradition. Cretans pay attention to the first person to enter their home in the New Year. Some will invite a favorite friend or relative to be the first – or even a child – all are considered lucky omens.
6) The custom of kali hera is another good luck New Year’s tradition in Crete. Adults will give money to their family’s children including grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
7) In Crete, you can also catch fireworks at midnight. These are organized by the various municipalities.
8) A long-forgotten Cretan tradition is the hanging of the squill (scilla maritima), commonly called the sea onion. Animals don’t eat this wild plant because it is poisonous and can cause a rash if it comes in contact with the skin. What makes this plant special is that when it’s pulled from the soil, it continues to bloom and produce new leaves. Greeks believe this display of long surviving power can be transmitted to humans. That’s why Cretans would hang the sea onion in their home around New Year. This tradition is said to have started in the 6th century BC.
That sums up 8 New Year’s traditions in Crete. Are you familiar with any of them?