Serbia, Macedonia Prepare Christmas Eve Celebrations

World | January 6, 2010, Wednesday // 16:04
Bulgaria: Serbia, Macedonia Prepare Christmas Eve Celebrations Bulgarian neighbors Serbia and Macedonia prepare to observe Christmas Eve on January 6. File photo

Orthodox Christians in Serbia and Macedonia continue to observe the old, Julian calendar dates for their Christmas celebrations, with Christmas Eve falling on Wednesday, January 6.

They are not alone in this: other countries who cling to the old tradition include Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia and Ukraine.

Following the afternoon services at St. Sava cathedral in Belgrade, the oak log - an item used in the Christmas rituals, and known in Serbian as badnjak - will be added to a bonfire in front of the church.

The ritual will also take place in front of other churches, while badnjak branches can also be found in households on this day.

Holy midnight liturgies will be served at midnight on Wednesday, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Those worshippers who observed the four-week period of Lent will also be able to take communion.

The Serbian Metropolitan Amfilohije issued his Christmas message on Tuesday, encouraging the Serbian people to "safeguard the Orthodox faith, language and alphabet established in the time of Cyril and Methodius, and enlightenment of St. Sava, on whichever continent they might live".

"This Christmas season we are especially filled with sadness that our great Patriarch Pavle has left us. We deeply believe that he continues to offer his prayers for our Church and our crucified people," his message read.

In Macedonia, celebrations began on January 5, the evening known as "kolede". The following evening, Wednesday, is the Christmas Eve, when the traditional oak log - badnik - is brought to the family hearth. This log is cut by the male head of the household and the older son, while the table is being set for the Christmas Eve Fast supper "Posna Veccera".

The house is decorated with oak branches with their leaves, representing the wish of the family for long and healthy life, "with health strong as oak, and with a life long as that of the oak."

Then the fasting supper, composed of strict vegetarian recipes, is served and the Christmas candle is lit, and everyone sings a Christmas hymn in readiness for the observances of Christmas Day.

Bulgaria, along with Romania and Greece moved their time for Christmas observance to December 25. A recent suggestion within the Orthodox Church to reinstate the "old calendar" dates was rejected by Bulgaria’s Holy Synod.

The staff of wish all who observe Christmas at this time a joyful and peaceful celebration.

We include the tiny Welsh community of the Gwaun Valley who, although not Orthodox Christians, have retained to this day the date of the new year from the Julian calendar, even though the rest of Britain moved over to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

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Tags: Christmas Eve, Julian Calendar, Gregorian Calendar, Serbia, macedonia, Bulgaria, Wales
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