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February 9, 2023

St. John the Baptist celebrated today

The celebration of the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist on January 7 marks the end of the winter holidays, and also, of those dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ

On the day after the Epiphany, January 7, the Orthodox Church celebrates Saint John the Baptist, Holy Prophet and Forerunner, the greatest of all prophets who shouted in the desert, ‘Straighten the Lord’s Way’, who stays at the limit between sky and earth and unites the Old and the New Testament.

The birth of Saint John the Baptist was set six months before Christmas (when the birth of Jesus is celebrated), on June 24. The birth of the Forerunner was announced to priest Zachary, father of the Forerunner, while in the Temple, by Archangel Gabriel, who also told him the name God chose for his son, John. Known for his ascetic life and herb-based diet, Saint John the Baptist has become the patron saint of the day on which complex folk rituals are held at the heart of which stands the vegetal symbol, which traditional mentality associates with the Garden of Eden and the everlasting life.

The people at the time called him John the Baptist, as he urged people to repent and baptized them in the River Jordan by wholly submerging them under the water. He told people: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!’, suggesting that kingdom so much awaited by the Jewish people is not one that could be conquered by sword, gold or uprisings, but of a whole different kind, a spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of souls where one enters by repenting and living in love and charity.

Sent by God to the desert to herald the good news of the coming of the Messiah and to prepare a path for Jesus, John accomplishes his mission by baptizing Christ in the Jordan River. Thenceforth, his brightness began to wane and of the Savior’s to grow.

The celebration of Saint John the Baptist on January 7 is also called the ‘Watering of the Johns’. In Bukovina, a decorated fur tree is placed at the gate of the house of each of those bearing the name of John, who throw fiddle parties to celebrate the event. In Transylvania, those bearing the name John are taken around the village accompanied by a grand cortege and on to the river where they are baptized.

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