On Monday evening, the parish held its annual cutting of the Vasilopita, a Greek tradition which commemorates St. Basil the Great's care for the poor (although there are several slightly different versions of the founding story). This annual event is also an opportunity for the parish to hear a short report of what was accomplished, with God's help, in the previous year, and what challenges lie ahead. This year, Fr. Alexios (above), reported, among other things, that in the previous year, the parish had 14 marriages, 45 baptisms, and 45 funerals.
Fr. Alexios and the parish council also used the occasion as an opportunity to publicly acknowledge Fr. Panayiotis' 20 years in the priesthood, which he celebrated in the December. He has spent all 20 years at our parish in Panorama. They presented him with a beautiful special edition of the Philokalia, arranged in parallel columns of the original Greek with modern Greek translation.
The turnout for the event, which was hosted at a local hotel, was quite good (over 200), and the ticket sales raised some money for the parish's philanthropic work.
Above the priests gathered around the vasilopita (which was actually two, since there were so many people). A prayer is said over the bread, asking for God's blessings on those who are assembled in the new year. The priest or the head of the family uses the knife to cut a cross onto the top of the bread, and then cuts out pieces for all those present, after first setting aside pieces for Christ, the Mother of God, St. Basil, and the poor (or some variation thereof). Everyone then looks in their piece of bread to see if they got the coin (called the flouri) which is taken as a blessing for the new year. The winner also often gets a gift of some kind.
Here, Fr. Alexios is marking the sign of the cross in the bread.
Afterwards, a band, led by our parish's lampadarios (second chanter) and some of the other chanters, entertained the crowd with traditional Greek music, which is often similar in many ways to ecclesiastical Byzantine music. Above, Fr. Alexios took a turn singing.
Pretty soon, as is wont to happen with Greeks, the people started dancing to the music.