Greek New Year’s Day Dishes You Can Enjoy All Year Round

Last updated on February 16th, 2024 at 05:23 pm

New Year in Greece is a big deal, as Greeks see it as an opportunity to celebrate the coming year with traditions focused on happiness, luck, and good health. Here at Remitly, we’ve created a guide to better acquaint you with what to expect during the Greek New Year.

Like many holidays, family and friends come together and feast on New Year’s Day. Greeks create much of the holiday menu with ingredients from their land or the local area, which has been the case for generations. 

Roast pork is usually the main dish as it’s traditional for families to slaughter a pig before Christmas to provide the meat for the holidays. Some people serve Souvlaki instead of roasted pork, which is essentially skewered, marinated pork. 

Although these Greek dishes relate to Saint Basil’s Day and New Year’s celebrations, you can enjoy them throughout the year. Whether you’re celebrating Eid al-Adha, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Ramadan, Easter, Diwali, or another holiday, food is likely an important part of the celebration. The recipes below aren’t difficult to find outside of the country, so you can make them wherever you live.

Prothronia (Greek New Year)

To Greeks, Prothronia is the most important day of the year. While the Greeks celebrate Christmas, they exchange most gifts on New Year’s Day and wish each other a Happy New Year.

Firework displays are everywhere—and probably the best you’ll ever see. Live music fills the streets, and families eat, drink, and look forward to the year ahead.

As the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve, many families throw a pomegranate to the floor, which has hung over the door through the Greek Christmas period. They turn out the lights before doing this and turn them back on to see how many seeds have filled the room as a good luck tradition.

The more seeds that land, the greater your luck will be over the next year. It’s one of many traditions the Greeks adhere to over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Saint Basil and Christmas

Saint Basil is an important figure in Greece and Athens, especially over New Year’s. He’s essentially the Greek Santa Claus. Like St. Nicholas, Saint Basil helped those in need and brought gifts to people experiencing poverty.

Saint Basil died on Jan.1, so the Greeks honor him on this day. Because of his generosity and kindhearted nature, the Greeks view him as Santa Claus and children expect him to leave gifts under the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve.

Rather than “Santa Claus,” they call him Agios Vassilis.

Greek recipes for New Year’s celebrations

As in other parts of the world, many Greek families have favorite traditional recipes they prepare around Christmas and New Year’s. To have a Greek-style holiday celebration of your own, try the following foods that can make great additions to your menu:


Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake that is the centerpiece of the New Year’s Day feast.

The vasilopita (or vassilopita) is a cake or sweet bread most Greeks bake for the Prothronia family gathering. It’s traditionally eaten right at midnight on New Year’s Day.

You can also find recipe variations. For example, some Greeks tell you to cover it with powdered sugar, while others have you top off your vasilopita cake with icing made using Greek yogurt.

What’s more important than the details of the various vasilopita recipes you find on the internet is the symbolism of the cake itself. The Greeks bake a lucky coin into the dessert and believe that whoever gets the vasilopita coin will be granted luck in the next year.

Its origins go back to Saint Basil, which is why it’s such an important part of the day. When Saint Basil wanted to give money to people experiencing poverty, he’d bring them a cake with a gold coin baked inside.

Here are some quick tips to make your vasilopita cake a success:

  • Wash the lucky coin thoroughly before use.
  • Wrap the gold or silver coin in aluminum foil before adding it to your flour mixture.
  • To prevent sticking, either flour the inside of the cake pan or line it with parchment paper.
  • If you won’t be eating the whole cake in one sitting, you can extend its shelf life to two weeks by refrigerating the leftovers.

Recipe to try: Vasilopita from My Greek Dish

Classic Greek salad

A Greek salad is the perfect accompaniment to any Greek meal, and it’s been popular since the ancient Greeks. It’s a staple in Greece, likely because of its versatility.

Some people like to add a twist to the salad, but the basic ingredients are tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, spring onions, and feta cheese.

It’s usually dressed with oregano, parsley salt, pepper, and olive oil in true Greek style.

Recipe to try: Greek Salad from Love & Lemons


Meze is similar to tapas. Like other Mediterranean cultures, the Greeks use “meze” to refer to small appetizers and dishes that are served simultaneously. Many Greek recipes classify as meze.

On a New Year’s table, you may see stuffed vine leaves, olives, Tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber dip), calamari, fresh veggies, fried cheese, and many more exciting dishes.

You can find many meze recipes online to create your feast.


These fried rings of deliciousness are popular over the festive season. They look a lot like onion rings, but taste nothing like them.

Lalagia are rings of dough made with flour, thyme, orange zest, juice, and other winter spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Some Greeks even add icing sugar.

Because of the flavors, they’re best enjoyed over the festive season, but nothing’s stopping you from eating them all year round.

Recipe to try: Lalagia from the Greek Gastronomy Guide


Dessert is a big part of the holiday meal in Greece, and mosaiko is a great recipe for chocolate lovers.

Also called kormos, mosaiko is a log made of crushed tea biscuits, semi-sweet chocolate, butter, and walnuts.

The mixture forms into a log shape, and when you slice it, this delicious dessert looks like a mosaic. Its appearance is how the treat gets its name as mosaiko is the Greek term for mosaic.

One of the biggest benefits of mosaiko is that you don’t need to worry about cooking time. It’s a no-bake cake you can prepare and slice when you’re ready to serve.

Recipe to try: Mosaiko from Mostly Greek


A Peloponnese dessert, diples get their name from the Greek term diplono which means “to fold.” This refers to how you prepare them.

To whip up this tasty treat, create long, thin sheets of dough and roll them up. Then, fry them in olive oil until they’re crispy and golden brown. While they’re still warm, dip them in honey syrup or a butter-sugar mixture.

Recipe to try: Diples from Mia Kouppa


Another delicious Greek dessert recipe, kourabiedes are biscuits made of butter, eggs, roasted almonds, baking powder, salt, flour, and vanilla extract. Some people add rose water to the batter, while others stir in orange juice or orange blossom water for added flavor.

After baking the treats and allowing them to cool, sift on powdered sugar. You’re left with cookies resembling plump snowballs.

Recipe to try: Kourabiedes from Souvlaki for the Soul


If you’re looking for a delicious Greek appetizer to kick off your meal, consider avgolemono. Traditionally made from egg yolks, lemon juice, and chicken, you can also add rice for a heartier soup.

Serve it alongside freshly toasted pita bread wedges for a satisfying start to your New Year’s supper.

Recipe to try: Avgolemono from The Mediterranean Dish


Consider feasting on a popular Greek pie like spanakopita. The dish features spinach and feta cheese sandwiched between layers of phyllo dough that crisps during baking.

Some recipes tell you to top it off with black sesame seeds, while others leave the top plain or dressed with thinly sliced spring onions.

You can serve it as a main dish or use it as a delicious side for your holiday meal.

Recipe to try: Spanakopita from Olive Tomato


Although you usually think of pasta as an Italian food, Greeks love it just as much. Pastitsio is one of the most popular pasta preparations in Greece. Delicious and simple to make, it’s the perfect dish for the whole family to enjoy at Christmas time or before a slice of vasilopita New Year’s cake.

Think of pastitsio as a sort of lasagna. It features layers of minced meat like lamb in a tomato sauce seasoned with cinnamon, bucatini tube-shaped pasta, and a rich and creamy bechamel cheese sauce.

Recipe to try: Pastitsio from The Mediterranean Dish


Often enjoyed as meze, dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with a delicious savory filling. Many recipes use minced meat like lamb or rice for stuffing, but vegetarian versions feature rice, lentils, and sometimes, ground nuts.

You can also find dolmades as a prepared food in many grocery stores and delis. Serve yours with slices of lemon, sprigs of parsley, and Greek yogurt for dipping.

Recipe to try: Dolmades from Dimitra’s Dishes (with lamb); Dolmades from Feel Good Foodie (vegetarian)


There is arguably no more famous Greek dessert than baklava, and many families whip up a batch to eat with their New Year’s cake.

This delicious treat features alternating layers of crispy phyllo dough and chopped walnuts. After baking, you pour on a sweetened sugar syrup or honey and allow it to cool before serving.

Recipe to try: Baklava from Natasha’s Kitchen


Pasteli is a popular Greek snack that’s often found at Greek New Year’s parties. Although recipes vary, they’re generally made with sesame seeds and honey syrup.

Pasteli comes in a variety of shapes and textures. You can find it rolled into balls, cut into bars, or sliced into squares. Depending on how it’s prepared, the dessert may be chewy or crunchy.

Recipe to try: Pasteli from My Greek Dish


Another dessert from Greek cuisine, xerotigana are pinwheels of dough fried, seeds, and walnuts that are deep fried and flavored with lemon zest. They’re often finished with a syrup made of thyme, honey, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice.

Recipe to try: Xerotigana from Gourmet Traveler

Other Greek holidays to celebrate

Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve aren’t the only times when Greeks celebrate, and you can serve many of the recipes outlined above at other times of the year. Here are some other key holidays observed by the average Greek family:


Celebrated on Jan. 6, this holiday remembers when the wise men visited baby Jesus. It’s marked with the Blessing of the Waters and family gatherings.

March 25

March 25 is both Greek Independence Day, the day that celebrates the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire, and the day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, when an angel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus Christ.

In addition to enjoying delicious food, Greeks often perform traditional dances on the holiday.

Clean Monday

This public holiday coincides with the first day of Lent, the time of preparation for Easter. Because many people give up lamb and other meat for the season, the holiday menu often features seafood. Greeks also prepare a special bread called azyme, and many families spend the day flying kites.

Holy Week

Holy Week occurs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Here are the different traditions for each day:

  • Palm Sunday: People wave palm fronds and place baskets of palms in their homes to remember when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.
  • Holy Thursday: Greeks prepare Easter bread and dye eggs red.
  • Good Friday: People participate in a procession at 9 a.m. to commemorate the death of Christ.
  • Holy Saturday: The Saturday night church service is the most important part of Lent. Most families eat a soup called magiritsa for their meal after attending worship.

Easter Sunday: Greeks turn off their lights just before midnight on Easter Sunday morning to symbolize the resurrection of Christ. When midnight arrives, people cheer, kiss, and hug, and some people set off fireworks. Then, they head outside for a candle lighting service.

Dormition of Mother God

Celebrated on Aug.15, this day celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ’s mother, Mary. The day is a public holiday, and many Greeks attend church services in the morning. In the afternoon and evening, it’s customary to attend large parties called panigiria.


Happy New Year from Remitly

The Greek New Year is a fun-filled holiday with great historical importance. It’s an opportunity for family members to get together and wish each other good fortune. Like many holidays, Prothronia has its own traditional foods that families enjoy every year. The dishes listed above are suitable for all occasions when you want a taste of Greece.