Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Happy belated Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Christmas

I know I said we didn't buy Christmas presents this year, and generally that's true, but in fact I ordered a box of little stuff for Enrico which arrived yesterday - a Russian Orthodox Christmas present, of sorts. Russian Orthodox Christmas of course falls 13 days after "Western" Christmas (for lack of a better term) due to a delay in changing from the Julian to the more accurate Gregorian calendar.*

At regular Christmas this year, a friend called to say she was taking her kids to Christmas Eve services, and would I like to come? Thinking, I suppose, that I'm one of the only church-going people she knows, and I might like that. The irony, I told her, is that Christmas eve has always been the one day my family never went to church, because we were always visiting my mother's family, and they were Russian Orthodox (more precisely Carpatho-Russian Orthodox, I think). So although we were celebrating Christmas Eve with the rest of American society, there would be no service at my grandma's church for another 13 days yet.

I once asked my mom how they explained that when she was a kid - why their presents came two weeks after most of the U.S. It was a heavily Orthodox immigrant community, of course, so they certainly weren't alone, but - how does a parent explain Santa Clause in such circumstances? How is it that Santa comes to a few houses long after most local Christians have celebrated Epiphany, taken down their trees and lights, and eaten all the holiday leftovers?

Mom said that her grandmother - the great matriarch of the family - simply explained that Santa Clause came back from the old country in a helicopter for Orthodox Christmas. I've always loved that - not just that Santa comes back, from "the old country," but he uses the more expedient helicopter the second time around. Maybe the flying sleigh magic doesn't work. Maybe the reindeer are too tuckered out. Maybe he just knows that the Slavs are a practical people.

Anyway - Santa came from the old country in a helicopter this weekend and brought us a new Golden Retriever Movie Guide, Rachel Ray's 30-minute vegetarian meal cookbook, a CD of the Duke Ellington orchestra performing jazz renditions of the Nutcracker and Peer Gynt suites, and an educational DVD with John Cleese entitled "Wine for the Confused." Veselé Vianoce!

* Actually it turns out, if Wikipedia is correct, that the Russian and several other Orthodox churches still haven't accepted the superiority of the Gregorian calendar, but have just somehow rigged their beloved old Julian calendar to be more accurate until the year 2800. At which point I guess they'll just cross that bridge when they get to it.


moxievanilla said...


Argh. The indignity.

Cousin Flora said...

Well. Er. I don't have a subscription to one of othose fancy paid encyclopedias...Hey, I gave the caveat.