Serbian Orthodox Christmas on Monday

Monday comes the holiday known as Christmas for the local Serbian Orthodox community.

Parishioners at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church, 538 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, are preparing for services and celebrations.

It is a celebration time prefaced by days of fasting, as the nativity fast is actually observed for 40 days prior.

The church is one of only two Orthodox churches in the valley still using the Julian calendar to set its feast days. The Julian calendar was in use at the time of the birth of Christ and is presently 13 days behind the civil Gregorian calendar.

That means Jan. 7, or Monday, on the civil Gregorian calendar is Dec. 25, Christmas, on the Julian calendar.

Christmas Eve services traditionally begin with the blessing and burning of the Badnjak, or yule log, along with the traditional Christmas vigil service. Traditional hot drinks will be served following the services – a beverage composed of sugar, hot water and plum brandy.

The traditional Christmas feast includes a centerpiece of green wheat symbolizing life and rebirth, and cesnica, or the traditional round sweet bread, which is baked with a coin inside. The person who finds the coin is said to have special blessings throughout the year.

In the homes of Orthodox Christians, it is tradition to place straw under the table on Christmas Eve to symbolize the humble birth of Christ in a manger. It also is customary in Serbian homes to roast a small suckling pig for Christmas.

Holy Resurrection Church serves Orthodox Christians of Serbian and other ethnic backgrounds from throughout the Upper Ohio Valley. Christmas Eve services at Holy Resurrection Church will begin with the blessing and burning of the yule log at 8 p.m., followed by the Christmas vigil service. Traditional hot drinks will follow. The Christmas Divine Liturgy will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the church. Liturgies also will be served on Tuesday, the second day of Christmas, dedicated to the mother of God; and to St. Stephen on Wednesday. All are welcome to attend the services.