TV6 Celebrates: Russian Orthodox Christmas

January 7 is actually December 25 on the Julian calendar
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 11:24 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - For most of us, it’s simply January 7. But on the Julian calendar, it’s Christmas. And today that’s being celebrated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

TV6 spoke with the priest at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Davenport about how his church celebrates every year.

“The rest of the world moved 13 days ahead of us. And Orthodoxy doesn’t change a whole lot. We hold on to the old traditions,” said Father Thomas Janikowski

In the Russian Orthodox Church, Friday (Jan. 7) is December 25. While most in the United States just rang in the new year, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas.

“It’s on the Julian calendar, which is kept by mostly the Slavic Orthodox churches around the word as well as the Jerusalem patriarch and on Mount Athos.”

Most of the Slavic Orthodox churches keep the old calendar as opposed to the new calendar.

Orthodox Christians have a fasting period in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

“It’s one of the four fasting periods of the year. And Orthodox Christians have been abstaining from a whole number of foods, eating a reduced diet. Staying away from meat, flesh meats, poultry. We eat fish a few days throughout the calendar, but away from dairy, eggs, oil, wine, hard liquor, all those sorts of things,” said Father Thomas.

It’s a time to step back and reflect.

“It’s a somber period, a quiet period of prayer, reflection, fasting, almsgiving. And then at Christmas we let our hair down, as it were, and celebrate,” said Father Thomas.

On Christmas Eve, Father Janikowski holds a service of Vespers at St. Athanasius, along with reading scripture, singing, having a meal, and decorating the church for Christmas Day, including a traditional Christmas tree.

“Everybody here brings and ornament from home. So our Christmas tree here is kind of an extension of Christmas trees at home,” said Father Thomas.

And candles are lit across the church.

“The faithful will come in and light a candle before an icon, and it symbolizes at one level, their prayer continuing in the heart of God,” said Father Thomas.

On Christmas day before the feast begins:

“We start bright and early with the matins and then the Divine Liturgy. And after that we have a bit of a breakfast here. And then Father Deacon Joseph and his matushka Anne, they have us up for a wonderful open house and a dinner at their place in Rock Island.”

Russian Orthodox Christmas has been a thousand year tradition but really came back in the 90s when the Soviet Union fell.

S’ Rozh-deh-stvom) “(greetings or blessings) of the Nativity”.

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