Saint Basil the Great, celebrated on January 1, 2022. 600,000 Romanians bear his name


The New Year begins with the feast of St. Basil the Great, one of the most important fathers of the Orthodox Church and one of the greatest Christian theologians, considered a “guardian of evil spirits.”

On the day of Saint Basil the Great, it is good to pour wine on the table, to break a white glass, to turn over the box of matches or to give alms to a poor man, so that you have good luck all year round. Popular tradition also says that you are lucky if the first person to enter the house on January 1 is a man.

He came from a well-known Christian family — his father, St. Basil the Elder, was a well-known teacher in Pontus, and his sister, Macrina, and his brother Gregory of Nyssa also became saints.

St. Basil studied at Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens, and as a young man he had a profound knowledge of philosophy, astronomy, geometry, medicine, and rhetoric. Under the influence of his sister Macrina, Basil came closer to the church, and the bishop of Caesarea, who greatly appreciated him, encouraged him to accept a church service. In search of ways to perfection, Basil visits many monasteries in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. On his return to Pontus, he established a monastery on the banks of the Iris. His writings from that period lay the foundations of systematic monastic life and that is why St. Basil is considered the father of Eastern monasticism.

He was bishop of Caesarea

In 370, St. Basil was elected bishop of Caesarea. In this high office, he was also Metropolitan of Cappadocia and Exarch of Pontus, his authority extending between the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea, and as far as the Euphrates. He worked hard to organize the church and fought for the rights of the clergy, while placing great emphasis on the canonical and spiritual training of priests.

Saint Basil paid great attention to the poor and the oppressed, initiating countless acts of charity. His love for his fellow man was especially manifested in the philanthropic establishment, called by the faithful Vasiliada. This settlement was built on the outskirts of Caesarea. Here the hungry were gathered and abandoned to be fed. According to the researchers, each disease was reserved for the building and the staff needed for care.

Saint Basil died in 379, and a large number of Christians, Jews, pagans, locals and foreigners attended his funeral as proof of his popularity.

The name Basil is widespread throughout the Christian world. It comes from the Greek “basileios”, which in turn means “king”, “emperor”, “basileu”. The Latins rendered it through Basilius.

Habits and traditions

There are many customs and superstitions related to the first day of the new year, in which Saint Basil the Great is celebrated.

St. Basil, perceived by some as the first partygoer, his name being considered by others as the baptismal name of Jesus Christ, is the defender of Christians, “guardian of evil spirits”, so the first day of the year came to be considered an opportune time for the development of magical practices.

On the day of Saint Basil the Great, it is good to pour wine on the table, to break a white glass, to overturn the box of matches or to give alms to a poor man, so that you are lucky all year round. If on St. Basil’s Day, after washing your face, you wipe yourself with a towel in which you put a penny of gold or silver, you will be clean and healthy all year round.

At the same time, if you sleep on St. Basil’s, you risk being lazy all year long.

According to popular tradition, it is lucky if the first person to enter the house on January 1 is a man.

It is also said that on New Year’s Day, every family has to boil a pig’s head in order to have a rich year.

Another custom is for each person to take the tool he is working with during the year and to handle it three times, in order to increase his work in the new year.

Also on the day of St. Basil it is said that it is good to drink a lot of wine, because as much as we drink, we will also have blood on our cheeks.

Other superstitions are related to the weather. According to popular tradition, as New Year’s Day is like this, the whole year will be like this: if it snows, it will be a rich year, and if it is clear, people will be healthy for the rest of the year.

Popular tradition also says that everything is renewed on the New Year, which is why it is good for people, on the first day of the year, to put a good thought into it, so that it goes well all year round.

At the turn of the year and on January 1, children are accustomed to go from house to house with sorcova to wish people wealth and health. Although sorcova was originally made from the branches of fruit trees or roses, today it is made of colored paper and tinsel.

In the country there is the custom of untying the year, when young people roam the village and make noises with whips, horns or pots. It is said that this is how evil spirits are cast out.

Also in the country, unmarried girls usually build bridges of two sweet apple twigs, to which they tie basil, a silver pear with red thread, a ring, a handkerchief and a string of beads, to see how he will be chosen. Thus, if the bridge is full of frost, the girl will marry a rich man, and if the bridge has no frost, then she will marry a poor man.

It is said that St. Basil prayed to God to give him a day, so he was given the first day of the year. Blessed, St. Basil tied a sprig of basil to the bell of a bell and wished God good things. That is why it is customary to hate January 1st.

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