Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Who was Agios Vasilis (Saint Basil)

St. Basil, Feast of
January 1
New Year's Day and the feast day for Agios Vasilis (St. Basil) are one and the same in Greece and Cyprus, and for all Orthodox Christians. Celebrations begin on New Year's Eve when Agios Vasilis is believed to visit each house, blessing the people and their belongings and animals, and bringing presents to the children. Nowadays, the parish priest goes around and blesses the homes of his flock.
On New Year's Day, a cake called the Vassilopita, or "St. Basil's bread," is ceremoniously sliced, according to varying traditions going back to Byzantine times. Usually the first slice is cut for Jesus Christ, the next is for the house, and the following for absent family members. A coin has been baked in the cake, and the person finding the coin will be the luckiest member of the family that year.
St. Basil was a monk and church father who left many influential writings, including a defense of the study of pagan writings by Christians. He was born about the year 329 and was declared a saint soon after his death on Jan. 1 of the year 379 in Caesarea (in present-day Israel).

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