Holiday Celebrations Around the World
Saint Basil's Day, New Year's Day
On this day, inspired by Saint Basil—a fourth-century bishop and father of the Greek Orthodox Church, known for his generosity to the poor and the needy—families visit, exchange gifts, and celebrate with a feast. The meal includes Vassilopita (Saint Basil's cake), a bread or cake inside which is baked a foil-wrapped gold or silver coin that the diners then search for. To acknowledge the saint's kindness, the first piece of Vassilopita is set aside for him.
The essence: Whoever finds the coin, a symbol of good fortune, can look forward to a happy New Year.
Tu B'shevat, a Tree-Planting Ritual, 15th Day of Shvat
On the 15th day of the month of Shvat (mid-January to mid-February), many Jews throughout the world celebrate the end of the rainy season by planting trees, eating fruit, and sometimes having a Seder. Originally a nature festival, Tu B'Shevat evolved into a day for emphasizing people's responsibility to the earth.
The essence: New beginnings and connection to the land.
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