Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wishing Orthodox Christians a Merry Christmas Today Jan.6

The Philippines has a local Orthodox Community so we greet them a Merry Christmas today! Here is an article regarding the Orthodox and Eastern Rite Christmas by JENNIFER ABEL
Staff writer

NEW BRITAIN — The Christmas season isn’t over yet, at least not for everybody — if you’re a member of an Orthodox church, Dec. 25 was just another cold winter day, and Christmas doesn’t roll around until today.

The Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection marked the occasion by celebrating an Epiphany Eve Candlelight Liturgy last night. The tradition goes back over 1,700 years.

The Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian, pastor of the Church of the Holy Resurrection, said, “Around 325 A.D., in Jerusalem, early Christians had pre-festal liturgies — festal meaning ‘before a feast’ — and there was a candlelight liturgy. In Latin the word is ‘lucernarium.’” The practice spread to Constantinople about 550 A.D. under the Emperor Justinian.”

Easter and Christmas, in other words in the Orthodox calendar inspire two celebrations: one the day of, and a candlelight liturgy the night before.
The only real difference between an Orthodox Christmas celebration and Western Christian Christmas celebration is the date it’s observed.

“All Christian churches used to have Christmas Jan. 6,” said Mouradjian. “But there was a pagan [Roman] festival called Saturnalia, after Saturn, which was celebrated Dec. 25. The Church of Rome decided to do something about that, and changed the date [of Christmas] to Dec. 25 ... the Orthodox churches, Coptic churches, and I think Syrian churches kept the original date.”

Jan. 6 is also an important date in the Puerto Rican tradition; it’s not Christmas but it is “Three Kings Day,” the day the three kings (or “three wise men”) are said to have visited and given gifts to the infant Jesus.

Karythia Estrella, a supervisor for the Opportunities Industrialization Center’s after-school program at Pulaski Middle School, said that in Puerto Rico, children traditionally did not receive gifts on Christmas morning but waited until Three Kings Day, when Jesus got his gifts too.

“In Puerto Rico the whole month of December is a celebration, but we get the gifts on Jan. 6, not Dec. 25,” she said. “The tradition is, the night before you get your box ready — about the size of a shoebox — and put grass in it and put it under your bed. That’s your gift to the kings. When you wake up in the morning, your gift is in the box.”

The Boys and Girls Club of New Britain will not be holding a formal Three Kings Day celebration, but program director Jason Gibson said, “We’ll be passing out goody bags to our members — a small toy, and some candy.”

Next Sunday, the first Sunday after the Orthodox Christmas, the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection will celebrate the birth and baptism of Jesus with an Epiphany Liturgy and a Service of the Blessing of the Waters, to mark Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.

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