Saint Basil (Άγιος Βασίλειος), whose holiday falls on January 1, the Greeks always remember as a person who brings gifts and helps children, the poor and disadvantaged during Christmas.
This is not too difficult to understand, since Saint Basil was a prominent figure in the early days of Christianity in this part of the world.
Saint Basil of Caesarea, who lived from 329 to January 1, 379, was the closest contemporary of St. Nicholas, who died around 343 AD.
Basil served the Church as Bishop of Caesarea Mazaki in Cappadocia, a Greek-speaking province in Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey.
Theology and guidelines for monastic life
The Bishop of Caesarea was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed, a foundational statement of Christian belief, and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting both Arianism and the followers of Apollinarius of Laodicea.
His ability to find a balance between theological convictions and political connections made Basil a strong supporter of the Nicene position.
Basil was the first churchman to establish rules monastic life…
Monks, according to Basil’s rules, should focus on public life, liturgical prayer and physical labor. Together with Pachomius, he is remembered as the father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity, Vasily is considered one of the greatest saints in the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa are together considered the main holy fathers of Cappadocia.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches gave him, together with Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom, the title of “Great Hierarch”.
Saint Basil is marked by caring for the poor
He is also recognized as a Doctor of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes he is called Uranofantor (Greek Οὐρανοφάντωρ), “revealing heavenly secrets.”
The great saint was not only an intellectual, but also firmly rooted in this world, early famous for his concern for the poor and disadvantaged, and for his extremely generous nature.
Legend has it that tax collectors once taxed people so heavily that they were forced to hand over all their treasures to the authorities.
Vasily declared that this was unfair and forced the tax collectors to give him the jewels so that he could return them to the people. Of course, then it was impossible to determine which jewelry belonged to whom.
Therefore, he came up with a new idea: to bake cakes with decorations placed in them and to distribute the cake pieces among the population.
Each received a piece of cake with decorations baked inside it, and the wealth was distributed back to the people.
Gifts of Saint Basil
This incident was never forgotten among the Greeks, who forever connected Basil with the tradition of gift giving.
Thus, despite the fact that currently the majority of Greeks exchanging gifts for Christmas, rather than on New Years, and more familiar with the figure of Santa Claus than with the figure of Saint Basil, the tradition of this great Cappadocian saint is preserved.
His figure may have been somewhat obscured by the jovial red-haired Santa Claus in many parts of the world, but his name is still present, reminding us that for the Greeks it was Basil who made the holidays a little happier.
And his holiday on January 1 is a great time to remember his life, full of generosity and good deeds.
Happy New Year!