Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve: Ayios Vasilis

A Cretan mantinada to usher in the New Year, 2009:
Λίγα λεπτά απέμειναν (Very few minutes remain)
το φως του οκτώ να σβήσει (of 8's light to fade away)
και το εννια που έρχεται (and of the 9 that's coming)
χαρές να σε γεμίσει (may it fill you with joy)

But the more I know about the world, the more difficult I find it I can believe this, especially in the over-commercialised Christmas times that we live among. While many children around the world are waiting for their presents, there will be many children that won't be getting any, because of the troubled times we live in. The economic crisis has put hard-working people out of a job, so many parents won't have money to spare for the toys their children see advertised on TV. Some countries are living through war times, so their children may not have any parents, while the children themselves may be having trouble staying alive. And some people are grieving for the loss of a loved one - Greece has lived through this tragedy so well just this past month. There will be no celebration in those houses.

Luckily, for us in Crete, Christmastime is a family-centred celebration which doesn't involve ham and turkey. Many people do cook turkey on Christmas Day and/or New Year's Day, but it is a tradition imported from other cultures. Santa Claus doesn't come to Greece on Christmas Day, either. Saint Nick is celebrated early in December (the 6th), while Christmas comes at the end of December. The task of distributing presents to children rests on one of the three most significant religious teachers in the Greek Orthodox Church, 'Αϊ Βασίλη (Ai-Vasili), St Basil, who is celebrated on the 1st of January, the first day of the new year, as he is believed to be closer to Christmas Day than Saint Nicholas. So children in Greece wake up on New Year's Day to find their presents under the tree. Even the Greek Christmas carols reflect this. St Basil was bishop of Kaisarea, and all Greek children know the Greek Christmas carol that goes "Agios Vasilis is coming... from Caesarea."

christmas tree
Most Greeks put up their Christmas tree some time in December, and take it down the day after Epiphany, the 6th of January, as that is the date when the Christmas holidays are considered officially over.

St Basil instead of St Nicholas dressed as Santa Claus in Greece may also have to do with the fact that the Greek Orthodox church used to follow the Julian calendar to work out the dates for Easter, but when it started to follow the Georgian calendar, some dates for some festivals (Christmas being among them) changed course slightly. There is a difference of fourteen days between the Julian and the Georgian Calendar, the latter celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. In the present-day Eastern Orthodox church, a group of people still follow the Julian calendar to work out festival dates, which dictates that Christmas falls on the 6th of January, making St Basil a likely candidate as the bearer of Christmas gifts for children. So the Greek Orthodox Christians meet the Old Calendarists (as the followers of the 6th-of-January Christmas are known) half-way on Santa Claus. Yet, even though it uses the Georgian calendar throughout the year, it is the Julian calendar that is used in all Christian Orthodox churches to work out the date for Easter, which is considered the most important festival in the Greek world (Christian Orthodox Easter always falls in April or May, never March).

christmas gifts
Thanks to Antigoni and Marina for their Christmas gifts: a Christmas tree decoration and a 2009 New Year's lucky charm.

I wish you all a Happy New Year
with peace, love and happiness all around...
Season's Greetings!

vasilopita 2009
New Year's Cake: the Greek Vasilopita welcoming the New Year with good wishes

Happy New Year to all!
Here's hoping it's a better one for all of us!


  1. that was very interesting indeed!

    Heres hoping you and yours have a super 2009!!

  2. Thank you for the calendarian information! I new about the differences in Christmas dates, but not that it also concerned the Easter since that is connected to the Equinox and the full moon.

    Otherwise, I full agree concerning the commercialisation and the present unrest not to far away from you. I wouldn't like to live in Gaza these days.

    However - I hope for a Happy New Year for you and your dear ones!

  3. New Year's Eve is my favourite winter celebration! Can't wait for the party and vasilopita tonight :-)

    Καλή πρωτοχρονιά!

  4. I don't have a lot to say about last year or this new year. Some thoughts...

    I hope 2009 will be better than 2008, 2007, and 2006. I do think our government will be inspired by our new President Obama -- at least I hope so.

    I would like to see the War in Irag end and I would like to see the killing stop everywhere.

    It is my hope that Japan will stop slaughtering whales and raping virgin forests.

    And I hope the people will lose their clubs and no longer club baby seals to death.

    What a world we have and live in. 2009 could be so much better than it will be.

  5. I love your town and your island, I have holidayed there three times.

    I hope you don't mind me taking the easy route by copying and pasting this comment, it is by far the easiest method of getting my message to so many CDP photobloggers.
    I am not sure that I can sustain South Shields Daily Photo much longer, it is so difficult to keep finding new material on a daily basis,
    and after more than two years inspiration and motivation are becoming harder to find, so I may become less daily from time to time.
    I hope you can find new hope and inspiration, and that a new start in 2009 brings everything that you desire.
    The CDP photoblogging community has grown massively over the past year and I'd like to thank those who have visited South Shields Daily Photo, especially those who have been kind enough to leave a comment or two.
    Best wishes for 2008




    South Shields Daily Photo

  6. Happy New Year full of health, joy and happiness to all of you. Lots of love from Cyprus.

  7. I wish you and your family the best for the New Year! As for Greece and the world we won't forget what has happened but we'll move forward with positive view for the future!!!

  8. A very Happy New Year TO YOU, Mediteranean Kiwi with warm aloha!

  9. Thanks for sharing your photos and information with us. I look forward to the New Year and learning more about your life. Hope your new year is the best ever! :-)

  10. We were puting up a tree when i was younger but from a point onwards (i do not remember the exact year) we were only setting up a ship.

    During the elementary school we were told about the differences but it was a bit confusing...OK so who brings the presents? Is it the Greek Orthodox St Nicholas? Is it Santa Clauss (St Niclauss)...Is it St Basil?.........Who ever it is, i would like an ATARI that? Thanks! :-D :-D :-D

    It's no surprise that the ship is the traditional Christmas "trademark" for Greece...after all we have about 13 thousand kilometers of coast line :-D :-D