Orthodox Christians in and from Serbia as well as Jerusalem, Ukraine and Greece are celebrating Christmas today as they do every year on the 7th of January. This is because they still recognize the Julian calendar (which depicts today as the 25th of December) even though the Gregorian calendar has been more widely used in the western world since Pope Gregory XIII introduced it in 1582. Growing up in a multi-cultural household (my father being Serbian while my mother is Hispanic) offered many rewards for me and my family but for me celebrating Christmas twice a year was probably the most rewarding. For one thing, although we were back in school we were allowed to miss school on the 7th of January and if I am being honest, got to brag to our friends on the 6th that we won’t be in school tomorrow as we were going to be celebrating our second Christmas. I remembered the camaraderie I shared with a certain Art teacher one year who was Greek Orthodox and also would not be in school the following day.
Serbian Christmas celebrations always began in our family on Christmas Eve where we would go to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Manhattan for Christmas Eve service.
This beautiful cathedral was designed in 1851 by Richard M. Upjohn and was originally an Episcopalian church for 92 years. The church was attended by renown author Edith Wharton who paid homage to the building in her book The Age Of Innocence.
On Christmas day, we would visit my Aunt and Uncle’s where we would greet each other with, “Hristos se Rodi ” (Christ is born) and celebrate it with a day of traditional Serbian dishes, presents and at times listening and/or dancing to traditional folk music..
Now living in England, I have no Serbian relatives to visit on Christmas but I do still celebrate it with my family here and make one or two traditional Serbian dishes. Our favourites are Gibanica which is made with cottage cheese and filo pastry and Sarma which is either stuffed cabbage or stuffed grape leaves.
To all my Orthodox viewers, “Merry Christmas!”