Saint Basil the Great, equivalent to Santa Claus, was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor.
He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. New Year is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of Saint Basil’s kindness to children and the stories of how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes.
Greeks have a christian name that is the name of a religious figure or a Saint. On the religious calendar each day has a different feast and people celebrate their name-day accordingly.
January 1st is Saint Basil’s Day which is the celebration day for those named Vassilios and Vassiliki.
On name-days and Saint Basil’s day people visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts, not just for those whose name-day it was but also for those who’s name day it isn’t. On these visits they have a big feast of food, drinks and music.
There are many special dishes that are prepared at New Year but the most important dish is Vassilopitta or Saint Basil’s cake, inside the cake is placed a silver or gold coin, meant for good-luck throughout the year for the lucky person who finds it into his/her piece of Vassilopitta.