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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Churches on Julian Calendar prepare to celebrate Christmas

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2015:01:04 00:18:51       
St. John’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in 

MAYFIELD — When Joanne Lutz was a little girl, she celebrated Christmas with her next-door Polish Catholic grandmother, and nearly two weeks later, again with her Russian Orthodox grandmother.
“I had two Christmases from the time I was born,” she said.

Now 67, the Scott Township woman was attending Sunday service at St. John’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield with her daughter and pig-tailed toddler granddaughter. Like her Russian “baba,” she will be celebrating Christmas with her family 13 days after Dec. 25 — this Wednesday, Jan. 7.

That is because the Russian Orthodox Church adheres to the older Julian Calendar, as opposed to the newer Gregorian Calendar, which most of the western world follows. Introduced by the Roman Empire during the reign of Julius Caesar, the Julian Calendar has mostly been replaced by the 16th century Gregorian calendar due to its perceived imperfections, leading to the 13-day difference.

So the service at St. John’s on Sunday was a pre-Christmas service — a celebration of the direct earthly ancestors of Jesus Christ in preparation for his birth — rather than a post-Christmas one.
The bishop of the diocese, Nicholas of Manhattan, oversaw the Sunday service, called a liturgy, bringing with him an ancient icon that was cut out of a tree in Russia in the 13th century.

The wooden icon, on which the faces of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus and others appeared, was whisked away from Russia after the revolution in 1920, the bishop told the congregation Sunday.

Straw plays an important part of tradition and celebration of Christmas at St. George’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Taylor as well.

St. John’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in 

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, members of the church, which also follows the old calender, but unlike the Russian Church falls under the Greek Orthodox Church, go caroling.

Dressed in costumes to represent the shepherds who witnessed Jesus’s birth and wearing baggy pants stuffed with straw, the faux sheep herders visit homes of other church parishioners. Once there, they sing carols in the ancient Slavonic language, act out the nativity and leave a bit of the metaphorical hay, said Kyra Leasure, the daughter of the church’s pastor and one of the carolers.

Other Eastern Orthodox churches in the area which celebrate the Julian Calendar include St. Basil’s in Simpson, St. Stephen’s in Old Forge, Ss. Peter & Paul in Scranton and St. Mary’s in Dickson City, the Rev. Sorochka said.

The North Pocono Cultural Society will celebrate Russian Christmas on Wednesday in Moscow, Pennsylvania, with its fourth annual art and cultural event. Participating businesses on Main, Van Brunt and Church streets will feature locally made art, jewelry and ethnic food from 6-8 p.m.


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