OPA! Theophany & Greek Dancing

 

Yesterday was Holy Theophany (Epiphany for my Western Christian friends and those not familiar with the word “Theophany”), and so my family attended the Divine Liturgy at our Greek Orthodox Church, and the blessing of the water service followed.

Then, we went downstairs and ate a delicious meal at the Vasilopita (St. Basil’s bread) luncheon. Followed by that, we all were treated to Greek dancing by our parish teens. Here’s the two short minute and a half (each) videos I took. Enjoy!

 

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Feeling the Holiday Burn Before Its Turn

12 days of Christmas 1

The original time for celebrating Christmas is Christmas Day and the eleven days following it leading up to and finishing on Epiphany/Holy Theophany.

Therefore, I like to start the decorating and putting up of the Christmas tree in early December.

But today, you’d think that was odd or old fashioned seeing how each year, stores are laden with glistening trees and decorations are stuffed on stores’  shelves way before December. In fact, they now clutter stores even before Halloween.

Goodness. Who wants to start stressing over buying Christmas gifts that early when you’ve not even bought your kiddies their Halloween costumes or purchased a plethora of super sweet candy?

And what about Thanksgiving?

Oh, we know that pops up between Halloween and Christmas because in the thicket of bobble-filled Christmas trees, Halloween masks, and mounds of candy, a plump turkey struts in and announces it’s that time of year to be eaten, even if you eat turkey in the form of lunch meats and bacon during the rest of the year.

For a moment in November, after you remember and honor military veterans, you remember to be thankful for all your blessings while preparing to feast on the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and the like spread out on your large dining room table.

But in the midst of dressing like a pirate and eating cream-smothered pumpkin pie, you are accosted by Christmas music before you can peel off those black-buckled pirate boots.

When you go to the store simply to restock on cleaning supplies or perhaps dog food, Rudolph and his bright red nose invade your peaceful browsing at your local store.

When you’re searching for a new set of dinner plates, the tragic melting of Frosty in the dull winter sun assaults your ears.

But that’s really just Christmas commercialism. Certainly not the holiday where you celebrate the birth of your Savior. So, in a way, you may be able to differentiate between materialistic, commercialized, consumer-centered, profit-making “Christmas,” and Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Wisemen Christmas.

Nevertheless, my car’s satellite radio stays on classic mellow rock, R&B, or ’80s tunes until the start of December. After that, the mixture of Santa and his reindeer and Jesus in the manger plays freely in the car. At home, I pluck out Harry Connick, Jr.’s Christmas CD and play it while I put up the tree.

We pull out our favorite Christmas movie, It Happened on 5th Avenue, gather together, and watch it with tears in our eyes and smiles splitting our faces. Of course, we also watch other well-known Christmas movies, like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, we even sneak in a movie with Rudolph and Santa.

Since we Orthodox Christians fast during the forty days leading up to Christ’s birth, we do all our celebrating on the original celebratory days of Christmas — the 12 Days of Christmas as I noted at the beginning of this blog post. The feasting commences, and joy and peace flow happily through the house.

So, waiting until the proper time (from my point of view) to break open the decorations and listen to various Christmas tunes, Christmas burn out doesn’t occur before Christmas Day.

Happy decorating, singing, and shopping for loved ones this Christmas season. 🙂

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On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall Fell: A Personal Childhood Experience of Visiting East and West Berlin and the Wall

fall of berlin wall 1989

(An edited repost)

For the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), I am posting a short piece I wrote three years ago in my creative writing class that is a true story about my experiences at age 10 or 11, to the best of my recollection, in West and East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie.

allied checkpoint charlie

Our tour bus rumbled to a stop at Checkpoint Charlie. It was a bitter cold day, and the gray sky promised an outpouring of heavy snow.

Just beyond the checkpoint and its red and white striped arm stood a white guard tower occupied by East German soldiers with machine guns. Behind us, the museum on one side of the road and the pizza parlor on the other emitted liveliness and the typical aura of a well-visited venue for tourists — the West Side of Berlin.

As my family sat waiting in our seats on the bus, a man in a military uniform climbed into the vehicle with a scowl on his face. “Passports! Passports!” he shouted.

The man’s crimson face and bulky, rigid figure frightened me.

 I was sitting next to my mother, closest to the window. My dad and sister sat in front of us. Mom clutched our passports, waiting for the man to get to our row. I slid down the seat, hoping to disappear. He then stood over my mother. She quickly showed him our documentation. He continued down the narrow aisle, his boots punching the floor.

Finally, he left, and the bus chugged through into East Berlin.

As dreary as the pewter sky were the drab brown buildings on either side of us. Few people walked the sidewalks. Our bus passed one person sitting on a lone bench, bundled up in a coat that seemed to mesh into his surroundings.

This childhood experience of East Berlin made a lasting impression on me that I can still see clearly to this day, over thirty years later.

berlin wall piece at RR Pres. Library
(A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library)