‘‘Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus”
Command Module Pilot James Lovell, Apollo 8, Christmas 1968
[Apollo 8 astronaut James A. Lovell. Image: Time Life Pictures/NASA/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images]
On 21 December 1968, Apollo 8 launched into space and its astronauts – Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, became the first people to orbit the Moon.
On Christmas Eve, the crew made a TV broadcast beaming back images of the Earth and the Moon and reading verses from the book of Genesis. The program was seen by ”the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice”.
[During his Apollo 8 space flight, the family of astronaut James Lovell watches his progress on television in Houston.
From left, wife Marilyn, sons Jeffrey and James III (in orange), and daughter Susan.
Image: Lynn Pelham/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images]
Truth be told, I don’t remember any of this – I was only a baby in 1968. Μoreover, Santa Claus is bringing gifts to Greek kids on New Year’s Eve, not on Christmas Eve. His name is Agios Vassilis [‘Αγιος Βασίλης] – Saint Basil and he is from Caesarea in Asia Minor.
It is said that St Basil was a bishop in Caesarea. He was a kind man who helped those in need and provided practical aid to the poor. He was thus considered as someone who ”brings gifts”. St Basil died on 1 January 379 AD and to honour him, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates his memory on that day.
This is why Agios Vassilis is coming on New Year’s Eve and my sock is still waiting to be filled with presents!
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