Saint Basil’s Day – January 2

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Saint Basil’s Day is annually celebrated on January 1 in the Eastern Churches, on January 2 in the Western Churches, and on January 14 in churches that follow the Julian calendar. It starts with a divine liturgy in honor of the Byzantine bishop of Caesarea, after a matin service on the morning of the feast. On the evening before St. Basil’s Day, Great Vespers is conducted. The Father of Communal Monasticisms, St. Basil is the patron saint for hospital administrators and reformers and the region of Cappadocia in Turkey.


St. Basil was on his journey to becoming a lawyer and teacher when he suddenly felt drawn towards religious life. He traveled across Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia, visiting monks before returning to Caesarea in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He left again for the Iris River in Pontus, where his mother and sister, Macrina the Younger, were already treading the path of ascetical life. Owing to the positive influence of his sister, he embraced this life and abandoned his worldly career.

By 358 A.D., he started gathering like-minded disciples, including his brother. They founded a monastic settlement on his family’s estate near Annes. His mother and sister, along with other women, devoted themselves to a life of prayer and charity. When the bishop of his country resigned around 370, St. Basil was elected his successor. The Church of Christ was entrusted to him from then on, and he tended it for eight years, living in voluntary poverty and asceticism. He defended holy Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy as a worthy successor of the Apostles. His principles have a significant influence on Eastern monasticism today.

On January 1, families gather to share ‘Vasilopita’ or ‘St. Basil’s bread,’ a sweet bread in which a coin is placed. The person who gets the slice of bread with the coin inside will have good luck in the coming year. The head of the household makes a cross sign over the bread, cuts the first one in offering to Christ, and the second and third slices to St. Basil and the Virgin Mary. The next piece is for the head of the household, and the remaining portions are distributed evenly among the remaining members from eldest to youngest. Greeks also celebrate this day by singing carols and incorporating other customs that bring good luck.


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