Russian Christmas

Its January 7th and for most of the world it is a winter day in January. Truth is that for the orthodox community worldwide this is Christmas Day. It is because most orthodox churches follow the Julian calender. The Julian is a calendar introduced by the authority of Julius Caesar in 46 BC, in which the year consisted of 365 days, every fourth year having 366 days. It was superseded by the Gregorian calendar though it is still used by some Orthodox Churches. Dates in the Julian calendar are sometimes designated “Old Style.”.

As a child it was a delight to have two christmases to celebrate. Russian Christmas meant long church services, and delicious food. Our home swelled with family and friends we don’t always see. It was the adults sipping vodka, or drinking black tea with a big dollop of jam. My parents always baked a ham, and lots of vegetables. There was lots of chatter, occasional singing. Sometimes it was talk in Russian that I could not understand. And sometimes I understood words. In my grandma’s face were stories she never told. She came to America as a 16 year old from Vienna Austria where she had lived a year or two after leaving her village on the Russian/polish border. As an adult I wish I could talk with her, to find out what courage she had to travel to a new country, not knowing anyone, and even the language unknown. All of my grandparents came to America in the 1890s. It seems overwhelming to me. Strong hard working stock.

My parents were first generation Americans, holding to the traditions they learned from their parents, and trying to find their stride with making new traditions. Somewhere in the mid 1970s the calender changed, and officially Christmas was moved to December 25th like most of the world. That was the end of two Christmas celebrations.