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Archive for the tag “festive season”

Julian, Gregorian, Mammonian: thoughts on the Festive Season

There was the Julian (Old) Calendar, then there was the Gregorian (New Calendar).

When those on the New Calendar (NC) are celebrating Christmas, those on the Old Calendar (OC) still have 13 days to wait. When those on the New Calendar are celebrating Theophany/Epiphany, those on the Old Calendar are celebrating Christmas Eve. But whichever calendar you are on, there are the Twelve Days of Christmas between the celebration of Christmas and Theophany.

Except that there is a still newer calendar, the ultramodern calendar, which I shall call the Mammonian Calendar (MC), which wants to move the Twelve Days of Christmas earlier still. As for example here:


If 14th December is the 4th day of Christmas, that means that Christmas day itself must be on the 11 December (Gregorian). That would put New Year on 18th December.

Such numbering gets even more confusing than the Julian/Gregorian one, so why not go the whole hog?

Make New Year’s Day the 1st December, and in the interests of the economy make all the days between Black Friday and New Year compulsory retail shopping days, on which all retail businesses must be open 24/7, and all non-retail businesses must close, to allow their employees  time to shop. The months could be given more appropriate names too. How about calling December Steinhoff, January Gupta, February Jooste and so on. Name them after all the heroes of Monopoly Capital. Even Cecil Rhodes could make a comeback.

But seriously, there’s a lot of confusion.

Think of all the places the 4th day of Christmas can be:

  • 14th December in the Mammonian calendar
  • 28th December in the Gregorian Calendar
  • 10 January in the Julian Calendar (with Gregorian notation)

Lots of my Western friends seem to think we keep Christmas on 7th January (Gregorian), but no, we don’t. Most Orthodox Christians in Africa follow the Gregorian calendar for the fixed feasts, of which the Nativity of Christ is one. Two parishes in our diocese follow the old calendar, St Sergius in Midrand and St Thomas’s in Sunninghill. Most of the rest are new calendar.

But business threatens to impose yet another layer of confusion.

My blogging friend Fr Andrew Stephen Damick has made a valiant attempt to chart a safe course through the muddied waters here How Many Days is Orthodox Christmas? — Roads from Emmaus.

And I’ve been doing my bit by posting “It’s the 5th day of Christmas” (that’s today, Gregorian) on Facebook, and hoping some of my friends might pass it on as a reminder to the confused which day it actually is. I don’t think many of my friends are on the Mammonian calendar yet, though Black Friday arrived on these shores a couple of years ago, and is probably here to stay.

The High Priests of Monopoly Capital also like to call the time preceding Christmas “the Festive Season”.

Not for Orthodox Christians it isn’t. For us the Festive Season begins on 25 December and lasts until 4 January. From 15 November till 24 December is the Fastive Season. No meat, eggs, or dairy products. On some days fish is allowed (it’s the main time of the year when we eat fish).

Hot Cross Buns are a relic of the fasting season in the Western Church. If they fasted on no other day, they did so on Good Friday (I don’t know what they do now), and so hot cross buns, if made properly, should be fasting food — no eggs, butter or other dairy produce. But on Boxing Day (the Second Day of Christmas) — no way!

On Christmas day this year we went to the Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas of Japan Church in Brixton, Johannesburg, 91.4 km at 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with no aircon in the car. We took Charles Nkosi down to be baptised (full story, with pictures, here). On the way home one of our number, Artemius Mangena, got a phone call from his brother, inviting him to a Christmas dinner…. a vegetarian Christmas dinner! So much for the Festive Season. I said he should at least try to eat some cheese.

 

 

Christmas eggs

You’ll probably find lots written on the web about Easter eggs, but Christmas eggs are just as important. For Orthodox Christians the Nativity Fast begins on 15 November, and lasts until Christmas Eve. That means no meat, no eggs or dairy, and on most days no fish, wine or oil as well.

And now that the Nativity Fast is over and the Festive Season has begun, one of the things we have is Christmas eggs. And so we went to the Dros for steak, egg and chips. We sometimes go to the Dros just before or just after the main fasts, like the Nativity Fast or on Meatfare Sunday (carnival) that precedes Great Lent.

Dros is a restaurant chain (franchise), which probably falls into the category of Stuff White People Like. Actually, it’s more likely to be Stuff Model-Cs Like. It’s very bourgeois, very middle-class. But it’s a good place to go if the main reason for going is to eat meat, because they do meat and do it well. And so we go there 2-3 times a year for their steak, egg and chips and related dishes. Christmas eggs (and Easter eggs, too, for that matter) taste best fried.


Today being Boxing Day, or the Day of Goodwill as it is now called, and the middle of a long weekend, the restaurant was almost empty.


The pictures show the Dros in Hatfield, Pretoria, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. They are all designed with the same architecture, and the food tastes much the same in all of them. And it is a cut above MacDonalds.

Pies, tarts and Synchroblog

Sweet Violet, an American living in South Africa, writes about the difference between American and South African Christmas customs: A View from the Other Side: Christmas on the Other Side

One of the things that comes up in the discussion is the difference between pies and tarts. To me the distinction is that a pie always has a pastry crust on top, whereas a tart does not. In America, it seems, the difference has something to do with size. So we have milk tart (which is a kind of custard tart, or a jam tart, and quiche is a variety of tart. But mince pies are pies, even if made of fruit mince rather than flesh meat.

South Africans do sometimes confuse them, though, especially those for whom English is a second language. A lawyer friend once told me of a judge, who, in sentencing a recently-convicted accused, said “He had a finger in every tart in town.”

Sweet Violet also mentioned turkeys, which she said were not part of South African Christmas celebrations. My memory is different, but perhaps because I grew up on a smallholding in Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg, where we had chickens, ducks and turkeys. We always had turkey for Christmas (and sometimes sold them to our customers for that purpose).

In recent years years, however, turkeys have been more difficult to find. I attribute this to the Rainbow chicken boom of the 1960s, when traditional poultry farms were replaced by battery hens, initially near Camperdown, Natal, but later all over the country. Turkeys didn’t fit the pattern, and demand was seasonal, so it was probably uneconomic to raise turkeys.

One could still get turkeys in supermarkets, though, but they were imported from America. I had visions of all the supermarkets in the USA bundling up their unsold turkeys on the day after Thanksgiving, and airfreighting them to Pick ‘n Pay in time for Christmas. They came wrapped in plastic, and the label proclaimed them as “self-basting”, which made me wonder what kind of sinister genetic modifications had been carried out on them!

Talking about Christmas reminds me of this month’s Synchroblog, with the theme Redeeming the season. As Phil Wyman writes:

Redeeming the Season is the Topic for this month’s SynchroBlog. Now there are a variety of seasons being celebrated at the end of each year from Christmas to Hannukah to Eid al-Adha and Muharram, from the Winter Solstice to Kwanzaa and Yule. Some people celebrate none of these seasonal holydays, and do so for good reason. Below is a variety of responses to the subject of redeeming the season. From the discipline of simplicity, to uninhibited celebration, to refraining from celebrating, to celebrating another’s holyday for the purpose of identificational evangelism the subject is explored.

This is a kind of anniversary , the first one having been held in December 2006, at the instigation of Phil Wyman and John Smulo, when a group of us blogged on the theme of “Syncretism.

This month’s synchroblog is on the theme of “Redeeming the season”, and here are the links to the posts:

Swords into Plowshares at Sonja Andrew’s Calacirian
Fanning the Flickering Flame of Advent at Paul Walker’s Out of the Cocoon
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Eager Longing at Elizaphanian
The Battle Rages at Bryan Riley’s Charis Shalom
Secularizing Christmas at JohnSmulo.com
There’s Something About Mary at Hello Said Jenelle
Geocentric Versus Anthropocentric Holydays at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Celebrating Christmas in a Pluralistic Society at Matt Stone’s Journeys in Between
The Ghost of Christmas Past at Erin Word’s Decompressing Faith
Redeeming the season — season of redemption by Steve Hayes
Remembering the Incarnation at Alan Knox’ The Assembling of the Church
A Biblical Response to a Secular Christmas by Glenn Ansley’s Bad Theology
Happy Life Day at The Agent B Files
What’s So Bad About Christmas? at Julie Clawson’s One Hand Clapping

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