Dean Franck is a first year student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
OCN promotes good practices and values that are apart of a strong Orthodox culture. Living the Faith is a major portion of what we aspire to promote, encourage, and do. Examples such as this article about Christmastide are mere reminders of the gifts that Living with the Orthodox Faith brings.
Down the block of simple brick row houses on Chicago’s South Side there is a band of two or three houses that still brandish their Christmas lights around the third of January. This little group of Greek-American immigrants has yet to let anything influence their tradition of celebrating the warm birth of Christ for twelve days until Theophany.
It seems that in the world today Christmas is “taken down” so quickly. In the days prior to Christ’s birth there are parties and preparation and most of all shopping. Yet, just a day or two after Christmas the lights are off, the peace of Christmas has rolled into New Year’s preparations, people swarm the malls for sales, and we are already on to the next year. While out on the sidewalk, just a few days after Christmas, taking scoop after scoop of thick gorgeous white Chicago snow in the reflection of our own Christmas lights, I truly feel a little sadness when I realize that some folks have already rolled up their “holiday.”
This sort of expedience around Christmas leaves Orthodox Christians in an interesting position. The days prior to Christmas are our last days of the fast and our somber preparations. For myself, it seems that I can truly experience the birth of Christ in a very personal way if I manage to control myself, and follow the fasting and feasting cycle set forth by the church. The meditative last days of the forty day Nativity fast seem to really draw me inward to focus on the Light to be born. Once Christmas arrives I can truly rejoice and feel the presence of the newborn Lord throughout the feasting period of the twelve days until Theophany, Christmastide.
The beauty of all God’s calendar is truly amazing. Pascha coincides with spring. We fast in the last gray days of winter and then, as we experience the Resurrection, life begins to sprout forth from the earth. The Dormition fast and the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos gather us together in fasting towards the end of vacation-filled summer and allows us to celebrate our most glorious Virgin Lady as the season closes and harvest comes. So yes, it hurts my heart to see Christmas being “taken down” just a day or two after Christmas. “Christmas until Theophany, is one of those rare times in the life of the Church where all fasting is suspended, and the fullness of Christ’s incarnation is on full display. In other words, we receive the uncreated light of the Christ-child on Nativity, and are prepared to share that light with the world by the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.”
Very often in this modern world the secular infringement upon the Church’s customs seems to grow and grow. The end of the Nativity fasting period becomes the hustle of Christmas preparation and the after Christmas feast is, “back to the grind until New Years.” The Church has blessed us with holy times like Christmastide, to step aside from it all and revel in our little glimpses of Paradise. May we find true joy in our hearts through these brilliant twelve days of Christmastide. And as Melissa Tsongranis wrote, in her article, Let’s Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, “the presents have been opened, the food has been eaten, and the Christmas tree is really starting to shed—yes, your house is showing the effects of Christmas Day ” because for Orthodox Christians, with Christmas, the feast begins!
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