Saturday, 22 December 2007
Aϊ Βασίλης έρχονται ξανά...
Watching a truly tacky 10 minute Christmas song programme last night, which had mechanical reindeer, someone throwing fake snow in front of the camera every 30 seconds or so, and a bunch of schoolkids singing to a Karaoke-style backing, I started wondering where the Greeks got "Ay Vasilis" from.
Then I read Chris's article, which had a link about the historical Man Behind the Beard, and was motivated to find out more (well, have a quick look on Wiki).
He's their Father Christmas. Every culture has one, even places like China and Japan. In these days of globalisation, Ay Vasilis is the Coca-Cola Santa, but like St Nicholas he also has a history. "Basil the Great" was born around 330, and is famous for looking after the poor and needy.
His exertions led him to an early grave at the age of 50 - Looking at our modern version, who is prime heart-attack material, yet moves round the world at velocities approaching lightspeed, it's clearly a dangerous occupation. At least no-one tried to hack his head off.
As for the picutre above, what can I say? Art has moved on somewhat in the last 600 years. They got the beard, but maybe they just didn't have any red for the coat. The writing at the top is too small for me to read, but I'm guessing it's Medieval Greek for "Ho Ho Ho!"