Thursday, December 20, 2007

Living by a different time

Or perhaps I should have said, living by a different calendar. You see, myself and my family are Old Calendar Orthodox Christians. *NOTE: I am not getting into The Debate here. I am simply telling how this has been a part of my life. Those of you who are not Orthodox may be confused here, but don't worry. If you don't know what I'm talking about, the note doesn't apply to you.* Being Old Calendar means that our church life is thirteen days behind everyone else. For instance, today is the 7th of December OC, not the 20th. Our worldly lives use the usual Gregorian calendar (anything else would be a tad awkward) but our religious lives operate on a different time frame.

Around this time of year the difference seems startlingly apparent. Practically, it means that December 25th (Gregorian) isn't Christmas. It's the feast of St. Herman of Alaska. Similarly, January 7th isn't just another day--it's the Lord's Nativity. It means that certain dates have great resonance for us which the rest of the world doesn't even think of, while other dates are far less busy than they are for others. For myself, New Year's has always seem stuck in the middle of St. Herman and Nativity.

Since my parents are converts we experience some of the more "normal" excitement surrounding December 25th. We generally open presents from our non-Orthodox relatives on that day so they don't think we've forgotten about them. But in a way, it's their day not ours, and our hearts really glow more at the thought of the beginning of Orthodoxy in America than sugarplums and snow fairies.

I like having this very literal sense of Orthodoxy operating on a different temporal plane than the rest of the world. I like that Christmas for us remains uncomercialized, still wonderful for its sacredness, not for its presents. Though, of course, I like the presents.

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