The celebrations continue
The Christmas season has passed for most of us, however, one group of folks are just getting started.
Monday, Jan. 7 in Orthodox traditions is Christmas and the 14th is New Year’s. This is based on the Julian calendar, which is on or near to Jan. 14 in the Gregorian calendar.
Orthodox New Year celebrations include social gatherings and dinners featuring traditional activities and dishes from other parts of the world such as Russia, Rumania or Ukraine. Based on the numbers of adherents, the Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church.
The most common estimates of the number of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 200 to 260 million and just under seven per cent of the Canadian population. Although largely a celebration in western provinces and western Ontario, we have a significant number of Nova Scotians who celebrate these dates.
With the turmoil in the AustroHungarian Empire prior to the First World War, many Rumanians, Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans fled the hardships and poverty in their homelands, migrating to Canada. Hence, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, many groups from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (Transylvania, Bukovina, Banat, Crisana and Maramures) migrated to the Prairie provinces of Canada to work as farmers. This was a policy initiative of the federal government that had promised to populate the West. The Dominion Lands Act encouraged homesteaders to come to the area. This was not an easy transition as many found themselves with land that was very difficult to cultivate. The so called second wave of immigration, just as challenging, came after the first war, with others to follow. Yet, they persevered and flourished. Their beautiful traditions have blended into our wonderful Canadian mosaic.
Like every cultural/ethnic group there are traditions, music and special food preparations. Some of my Rumanian favourites are perogies, sarmale or cabbage rolls, racitura (a variation of head cheese), nalysnyky (a decadent cheese mixture roles in crepes smothers in heavy cream) are just some of the delicious delights! No turkey, but fish and pork are the center of the meal. It is believed if the New Year’s meal is rich and flavourful, the year ahead will be prosperous and happy.
The Malanka (New Year’s Eve) celebration in the early years often included traditional dances and role plays where people wore masks that portrayed animals. This was an opportunity for the animals to be acknowledged and respected for their contributions. One of my friends always wanted to be a goat as did his older brother because he could tease his little sister as she was not fond of the family goats. She, however, often chose the horse so she could chase them.
Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are times for gatherings, laughter, music and joy. So perhaps if your neighbours still have their Christmas lights bright and visible until the 15th or so it may be they are not just forgetful, but are living the entire season!