The 1st Santa Claus

The 1st Santa Claus

The 1st Santa Claus


The 1st Santa Claus ever was Saint Nicholas. In Greece we are celebrating the predecessor of Santa Claus on December 6th. The bishop Nicholas lived in the 4th century in the Lycian town of Myra in Asia Minor. ***

Today, Saint Vasileios (Agios Vasilis) has the role of Father Christmas-Santa Claus, who brings all the gifts to nice children on New Year’s Day. 

The felicitous St.Vasileios had white beard and was dressed in red. He was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia during 330a.C. and died at Caesarea on January 1st of 379. Agios Vasilios was a philanthropist professor of rhetoric, who prisoned from Diocletian for spoken against the Arians. Serving as Bishop of Myra, he was known also as a participant in the seminal Council of Nicaea in the year 325, during which the adoption of the Nicene Creed took place. The Creed forms the basis of the belief system of Christians. 

He tried to solve problems of workers in the mines of Taurus at Asia Minor. He helped orphans, wronged, sick and needy and established the distribution of goods (food, clothes, money) and all kinds of help to poor families in need. Ηe established himself as baring gifts through his charity work of Vasileiada. Vassiliada was a social charity Poor House’ a model centre of care for the socially weaker people.

Event from his life No1:

Rumour has it that a poor family was thinking to sell one of their daughters as a slave, in order for the rest of their children to survive famine. Then Agios Vasilios threw gold coins down the chimney of their house. The coins landed inside the girl’s stocking, which she hung up on the fireplace to dry. He saved in that way the daughter from slavery. Hence, today we are thinking him of going down to chimneys.

* That’s why we are offering gold coins made out of chocolate as gift.

Event from his life No2:

Another story narrates that enemies once entered Caesarea and stole all the gold. In a miraculous way, the jewels were found. After that and to avoid injustice, as some claimed the jewels were theirs, when they were not, the bishop Agios Vasilios thought of making a huge pie. In this pie he put the jewels inside. Subsequently, everyone who got a piece also got the jewel that contained their piece. So, eventually everyone was happy to have gold jewellery again.

** That’s why we have the custom of vasilopita (pie of Vasilios, which is a baked pastry-cake with one coin inside). It is served at the festive New Year’s table, that is, on the day his memory is commemorated. Whoever gains the coin has good luck all year round.

We are celebrating Saint Nicholas on December 6th, since he died on that day during 342 AD. However, we are celebrating Saint Vasileios on 1st of January as Orthodox Christians.


***In short, merging the traditions of Western European to immigrants who moved to America, the name of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos) changed. The name of Santa Claus is an anglicized type of German name Sinterklaas, which is a foreshortened version of Saint Nicholas.



Merry Athenian Christmas to all !!!


Do not forget to read my article about: Christmas in Athens

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