Monday, December 26, 2011

Saint Basil: The Santa Claus of the Greeks

Saint Basil the Santa of the Greeks.
In my previous post, it was explained who was saint Nicholas who has given his name to the Christmas father. The myth of Santa Claus as a pop figure has spread all-over the world even in non-christian countries. In Greece someone would expect him to be called saint Nicholas because of the Greek derivation of his name and because he is considered a saint also for the orthodox faith.

Paradoxically Santa Claus in Greek is Aghios Basilis(Saint Basil). Saint Nicholas is considered more of a protector of the sailors and less as a protector of kids. He has become something like a christian equivalent of Poseidon(Neptune). 

Let's see who Saint Basil was and why is he attested to possess the attributes of Santa Claus.
Saint Basil was born in Cappadocia a region of eastern Minor Asia(present day Turkey) in 330 AD.
His family were already pious Christians. He received Christian education at home but also attended lessons in the famous academy of Athens along with Gregory of Nazianzus an another great Christian father and Julian who would later become emperor and enemy of Christianity.
From left to right Saint Basil , Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus.
These three together are name as the Cappadokian fathers or as the three hierachs.
In 357 he travelled to Palestine, Syria and Egypt to study monasticism by living with other monks. He wrote books about what he learned there and these books are cosidered the basis for eastern monasticism.

He spent his years in Caesareia the capital of Cappadokia , trying to put down a spreading heresy called Arianism.In 370 he became a bishop and also an exarch of Pontus.From 370 and later there are many accounts about his charities and help of those who were in need. Previously he had already distributed all his wealth to the poor and as a bishop he founded an institution called Basileiada. This institution functioned as a hospital, orphanage and hotel for the homeless. The staff was composed of people who were volunteering.
Saint Basil finally died in 379 AD.

Saint Basil's deed to distribute his wealthy fortune to the poor children and later the foundation of the orphanage and constant help of underprivileged children made him the first Christmas father.

Saint Basil in Catholic vestments .
From a church of Prague.

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