What do you know about the Greek Name of Santa Claus? Is the Greek Santa Claus the same as in the rest of the world?
Santa Claus in Greece is though a different person than in the rest of Europe.
The Greek Santa Claus is Agios Vasilis (Αγιος Βασίλης) and he brings presents on New Year’s Eve.
Agios Vassilis – The Greek Santa Claus
According to the Greek tradition, the equivalent of the Western Santa Claus in Greece is Agios Vassilis.
You will see the name of this saint also written as Agios Basilis or Basileios, Agios Vasilis, Agios Vassilios or Agios Vasileios.
Agios Vasilis is St Basil in English, and he comes from Caesarea in Asia Minor.
The story of St Basil is quite similar to the one of St Nicholas (the Western Santa Claus). St Basil (Agios Vasileios) was a kind-hearted and helpful man, who was aiding the poor and needy ones while he was bishop in Caesarea.
Agios Vassilios was far from chubby though; he was a tall, thin man with a black beard and black penetrating eyes.
He died on January 1st 379 AD. and the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates his memory on January 1st. This is why in Greece Agios Vasilis brings presents on New Year’s Eve and not on Christmas, as it happens elsewhere in the world.
According to the Greek tradition, the Greek Santa Claus was associated with bringing practical aid to the poor, so he was considered as someone who brings “gifts”. For the Greeks in Asia Minor, Agios Vassilis was something like the European Santa Claus.
It is not exactly clear how St Basil became the Greek Santa Claus, but the most predominant version of the story is that the Greeks of Turkey and Asia Minor brought the legend with them when forced to leave their homeland and move to Greece. This is why the main sweet bread of the New Year’s Eve in Greece bears his name: Vassilopita.
Since then, the Greek Santa Claus is Agios Vassilis, and all Greeks, children and adults, expect him to come on New Year’s Eve and bring his gifts to the families, leaving them under the Christmas Tree.
Santa Claus in Europe – The Names of Santa Claus
Santa Claus is the quintessential persona of Christmas and New Year. He is that legendary figure that brings gifts, an imaginary person who is well associated with the Western culture as Father Christmas.
The legend of Santa Claus – or St Nicholas – varies depending on the geographical regions and their particular customs. Saint Nicholas has been – for the majority of Western countries – the gift giver saint, who has been bringing gifts to the families on Christmas Eve. According to the tradition, the European Santa Claus comes from a Finish village, called Korvatunturi in Lapland Province.
Father Christmas or Santa Claus, dates back in the 16th century and is associated with several historical figures, depending on the region. In most cases, the figure of Saint Nicholas is the predominant, because of his common presence in many popular myths and legends.
He is Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, St Basil or Agios Vassilis ( the Greek name for Santa Claus), or simply the beloved “Santa”.
The variations are many, but due to commercial reasons, Santa Claus is nowadays presented as a chubby and well-hearted man dressed in red who brings gifts, lives with Mrs. Santa Claus and a few flying reindeers that help him carry his presents all over the world.
The modern image of Santa Claus was created in 1881 by an American Artist, Thomas Nast, who created a caricature of Santa, mostly as we know it today. Later, in 1931, Coca Cola decided to use this figure and caricature and make Santa, or Father Christmas in the US, the most known and recognizable figure of the Christmas holidays.