Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Monday, January 8, 2018

We're not Russian or Greek, but on Christmas we could be both!

I'm still enthralled by the things I'm finding on Newspapers.com. Some of the articles really give a feel for the life of our communities in decades gone by. Whether in cities or towns large or small, a keystone of our people's identity at least until the 1950s, and one that united them in some sense regardless of how their community may have splintered, seemed to be "the people who celebrated 'Greek Christmas' (or 'Russian Christmas')"—according to the Julian Calendar in use at the time by most churches of Carpatho-Rusyn origin, whether Greek Catholic, Orthodox, Ukrainian, Russian, Carpatho-Russian, Ruthenian, or Rusin—as the January 7 Christmas observance was typically called.

Check out some of the news coverage of the time.

(I encourage you to click on any article of interest to read the entire piece, especially since I truncated some of the longer ones to save space on this page.)

When did the term start to be used? Here are some of the earliest articles I found.


 
   

 


 

 



Ethnic-Greek Orthodox switched to the Gregorian (or technically, Revised Julian) calendar in 1924, so from then on "Greek Christmas" was not celebrated by Greeks, mainly just by Eastern Christian Slavs. But in some places, the term "Russian Christmas" was more common.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Greek Christmas" greatly affected production in the coal mines in some towns of heavy Rusyn concentration, and school attendance dropped significantly. In at least one city, they ran special bus schedules to transport our people to and from services.

 

 

 

This second Christmas celebration was an opportunity for local businesses to invite customers for special holiday items or to keep the party going.

      

 
As more and more Eastern Christian jurisdictions with Carpatho-Rusyn members in the U.S. began to adopt the Gregorian calendar (in many cases decided by a vote taken parish by parish), the phenomenon started to fade in importance to the greater community. These are some of the last times the concept made the newspaper in terms of acknowledging local celebrations of Christmas on January 7.

         

I believe the shared tradition (and traditions) of our "Greek Christmas" engendered a unity of our people that was greater than some of the issues that divided us like ethnonational orientation, regional origin, and religious confession.

Today, as our parish communities have shrunk, moved to the suburbs, or generally switched to the Gregorian Calendar, "Greek Christmas" is written about only as a curiosity, is among our people now mostly a memory, though a fond one for most Carpatho-Rusyn Americans, one that even the younger generations who never experienced it personally are still at least aware of. To those few who still had your Christmas last weekend, from your January 6 Christmas Eve Holy Supper to your celebration of the big day on January 7, know that in many ways our hearts and minds are with you.

Christos raĆŸdajetsja! Slavite Jeho! Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

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