I know it sounds weird, but I think December is the hardest time of year to be a practicing liturgical Christian. During Advent we mark a solemn time of prayer and preparation for Christmas. And then when we’re ready to party and celebrate the 12-day Christmas season, very few other people are. Just when I get my tree up, everyone else is taking theirs down. There’s a predominant cultural feeling that Christmas has passed and it’s on to New Year’s, college football champsionships and the Superbowl. In fact, the notion that Christmas is a 12-day season is so forgotten that most people have no clue what that Days of Christmas song references. Which is probably why no one brought me my 12 drummers drumming today.
Anyway, I kept looking out for stories that would talk about what it’s like to celebrate the holy days of the season as a liturgical Christian. I didn’t find any but David Crumm’s piece in the Detroit Free Press today is great and looks into the Christmas celebrations of liturgical Christians from the East.
Michigan’s diversity of immigrant groups, drawn mainly to auto-industry jobs during the last century, has left a colorful sprinkling of Christmas customs across metro Detroit.
That includes an unusual Armenian Orthodox Church observance of Jesus’ birth tonight and Friday in congregations such as St. Sarkis in Dearborn and St. John in Southfield.
“The Armenian Church is one of the oldest churches in the world, and we still celebrate an ancient tradition from the early church that joins two Christian feasts into what we call Holy Theophany,” the Rev. Garabed Kochakian, pastor of St. John Armenian Orthodox Church, said Wednesday. “In this double feast, we celebrate both the manifestation of God through Jesus’ birth and through his baptism.”
The story also gets into the calendar issues we discussed last week that help explain why the Eastern and Western churches celebrate Christmas a few weeks apart:
One day after the Armenian observance, thousands of Russians, Serbians and other Eastern Europeans will celebrate Christmas for a different reason. They’re parishioners at more than a dozen local churches that still follow an ancient calendar for Christmas that runs 13 days later than the modern secular calendar.
Also, I keep wondering why the folks who fought the War on Christmas haven’t kept their battle going. What about the coming War on Epiphany and other seasons and feasts of the church calendar?