ARTS & LEISURE

Old rite Christians celebrate Christmas

Old rite Christians (“Old Belie­vers”) – Lipovans and Ukrainians from Dobrogea, Bessarabians and Serbians from the Banat – will celebrate, on Friday, Christmas. The only old rite church in Bucharest is the Assumption of the Virgin Mo­nastery, on Televiziu­nii Street, while throughout the country there are 80 such churches. Accor­ding to the old Julian calendar, the feast of Christ’s Birth, set on January 7, is preceded by Christmas Eve, when children and youngsters wearing traditional costumes, with holiday pretzels wrapped in embroidered towels, go carolling by their friends’ and relatives’ homes, in groups, bearing the good tiding of the Birth of the Lord. After carollers go back to their homes, traditional families come together for a lent meal, cal­led “The Holy Sup­per”, after the first star comes out in the sky, reminiscent of the star which guided the Magi to the place of Christ’s Birth. The Christmas Eve meal includes the traditional holiday dishes, ex­cept they are all for fast. Mol­da­vians and Transylvanians, as well as ethnic Lipovans, Armenians, Bulga­rians, Ukrainians and Serbians, prepare 12 dishes, to commemorate the Apostles. Smoked plum stew, boi­led wheat with walnuts and lent “sarmale”, with mushrooms, are some of the traditional dishes ser­ved on Chris­tmas Eve, announcing the great feast of Christ’s Birth. Over one million Old Believers live in Romania, particularly Lipovans, Armenians and Serbians. According to the 2002 census, there are 29,774 Lipovan Rus­sians, 8,914 Russians, 22,518 Ser­bi­ans and 1,780 Armenians. The separation of the Orthodox Church in the Old Rite and the New Rite Church occurred in 1923, when Constan­ti­nople decided the passage from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The only opponent of the change, Metro­po­litan Visarion Puiu, was exiled and died in Paris. The Lipo­vans’ Christ­mas meal comprises traditional dishes, such as “haladet” (a special jelly, ser­ved with horseradish), “lapsa” (noodles boiled in chic­ken stock) and “sarmale” wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves. Fish is always present, in dum­pling soup or meatballs. Traditional desserts include “cozonac” with walnuts, pastries with cheese (vareniki) or other Russian specialties. Ukraini­ans in Maramures celebrate Christmas observing traditions passed on from generation to generation. The Christ­mas Eve meal is lent, but, according to tradition, nine dishes should be laid on the table, to symbolize prospe­rity all year round. The most important dish is “hrebeleanca”, a mushroom stew with cabbage juice. Boiled wheat, the symbol of a rich harvest, and fish are a must. An original tradition is that of tying the table legs with a chain, which remains there until Epiphany (January 19), to keep all good things in the home.

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