Many region resident celebrate Orthodox Christmas on Monday
Post-Tribune staff report January 7, 2013 11:22PM
Fr. Marko Matic holds a cross as his son Vaso kisses it during the Christmas ceremony at the St. Sava Sebian Orthodox Church in Merrillville Monday Jan. 7, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 9, 2013 6:22AM
Christmas was in the air on Monday, even though it was nearly two weeks after the well known holiday.
Christmas for many Orthodox Christians falls on Jan. 7 since they follow the ancient Julian calendar. Northwest Indiana residents attended vespers services at several Eastern Orthodox churches on Sunday and Monday, which was followed by setting the traditional yule log aflame.
The yule log comes from a young oak tree that churches decorate with crosses, icons, oranges, apples and walnuts. The tree, which symbolizes Jesus Christ, is blessed before the yule log is removed and set ablaze. The remaining branches are given to parishioners, who typically take them home to decorate icons of patron saints or Jesus Christ.
On Monday morning, the Very Rev. Marko Matic officiated the Christmas Divine Liturgy service at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Merrillville. Parishioners celebrated the moment “Hristos se Rodi!” (Christ is born).
Many orthodox Christians choose to fast in some way in the 40 days approaching Christmas, and they celebrate with a feast, typically with lamb or pig.
A church’s ethnic identity can influence holiday observances, from placing walnuts in corners of the house to signify a successful planting of the harvest to putting salt and bread on table to welcome guests.