In Greece, Santa Claus is not Saint Nicholas, but Saint Basil, (Agios Vasilis) and he does not visit Greek homes on Christmas Day but New Year’s Day. Everyone gathers at the towns center and cheers loudly to bring him back to their town again that year.
Later they eat at what’s called The Feast Day of Agios Vasilis (January 1st.) Greeks cut the Vasilopita, the delicious poundcake they share on the first day of the year. Inside there is a hidden coin which usually represents a larger, more valuable gift. In the not-so-distant past the coin was gold and of great value, but the tradition has changed somewhat over the years.
According to tradition, during the lifetime of Saint Basil, the emperor had imposed a large tax while there also was a great famine. People gave away their jewelry to pay the tax, and the saint called on the emperor to repeal the tax.
The emperor finally gave back all the jewelry to the Greek people. But since no one knew what belonged to whom, Saint Basil decided to secretly put the jewelry into the holiday poundcakes. Miraculously, everyone received their jewelry in the pieces of bread they were given by the saint.
Another Greek Christmas legend is the Kallikantzaroi or Greek Christmas goblins.
The Kallikantzaroi are goblin-like creatures which appear during Christmas. They are evil spirits, and according to the Greek version of a universal myth, our world is connected to the underworld through a tree. The evil spirits, or Kallikantzaroi, spend their entire year beneath on that tree, sawing their way into the outer world. They manage to succeed, and escape during the Twelve Days of Christmas, a period stretching from December 25 to January 6.
The kallikantzaroi are afraid of fire, so people keep them away by burning logs, incense – and
even old shoes. Since Christmas is during wintertime, families spend the season gathered around the fireplace and keep it constantly lit during the 12 days of Christmas. This tradition is called burning the Christokoutsouro (Christ’s Log).