In all Christian countries there is an image of the Christmas grandfather, who comes to people on the feast of the Nativity of Christ and gives gifts to everyone, especially children. Even many non-Christian peoples have such a character, for whom he is associated with the New Year holidays.
In France, the Christmas fairytale character is simply called "Father Christmas" (in French - Per-Noel), in Russia such a role is played by Santa Claus, the former pagan deity of the ancient Slavs.
In many Western countries, Santa Claus is expected at Christmas. The origin of this character is associated with the image of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was known for godly deeds. Having inherited considerable wealth from his parents, he distributed money to poor people with children. St. Nicholas was distinguished not only by his kindness, but also by his modesty, so he made gifts secretly, leaving gold at the doorstep, and once even let down a sack of gold through the chimney - Santa Claus does the same with Christmas gifts.
Santa Claus in Cyprus
In Greece and Cyprus, the Christmas grandfather is called Vasily, more precisely - Agios Vasilis, which means "Saint Basil". We are talking about St. Basil of Caesarea - contemporary of St. Nicholas. Like western Santa Claus, Agios Vasilis has little in common with its prototype: he is also depicted as a bearded old man in red and white clothes who comes from the North Pole. However, the last detail can be considered a later layering - in folk songs, it is still mentioned about "Basil coming from Caesarea", and not from the North Pole.
The combination of the Nativity Grandfather with the image of Basil of Caesarea is associated not with the biography of the saint, but with the day of his memory, which the Church celebrates on January 1 - close enough to the holiday of Christmas.
Christmas customs in Cyprus
In Cyprus, there is a legend about Basil of Caesarea. It is said that one day the Roman emperor Julius decided to take all the money from the Cypriots. Having learned about this in advance, the inhabitants asked Bishop Basil, whom they fully trusted, to preserve their treasures. The bishop hid the money in the chest. The emperor became aware of the act of the saint, and he set out to take away the gold, but at the last moment a cloud arose over the chest, from which angels emerged. The frightened emperor abandoned his intention, and St. Basil baked the coins into pies and distributed them to the poor.
To commemorate this legendary event, the Cypriots bake at Christmas the basilopitta, a pie in which they put a coin. When cutting the cake, the first piece is assigned to Jesus Christ, the second to the Virgin Mary, the third to the poor wanderer, and the rest are given to the guests. It is believed that a person who comes across a coin will be rich and happy if he keeps it in his wallet for a year.
For Agios Vasilis, a treat is prepared - wheat kutya with nuts, pomegranate grains and white caramel and homemade wine in a painted pumpkin vessel. So that Vasily can enter the house, the door is not locked at night and a candle is lit. A purse filled with coins is placed next to the treat, so that Agios Vasilis will give the family wealth.