Russian Orthodox Traditions

As told by Ephim Moonin

to Luba Anahonak

The most important Russian Orthodox Feast are, first of all Annunciation where the angel Gabriel came down and announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child, and she will name him Jesus Christ. This happens on the 25th of March on the old style Julian calendar and it is April 7th on the Gregorian calendar. Christmas would be on December 25th on the Julian calendar. The next one after Christmas is the Teophany of our Lord which means that He was baptized by St. John the Baptist on January 19th on the Gregorian calendar. Another feast is on the 15th of February. Thatís the meeting of our Lord when St. Simeon came to the church and brought Jesus and carried Him into the church. After he brought Him in, St. Simeon said, the song in the church that we sing during vespers is, ďOh Lord Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart in Peace.Ē Thatís what St. Simeon said when he brought Jesus into the church or the temple. After that feast we have the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem.

Before that we have the great Lent. Great Lent varies. Itís 40 days before Easter every year and it goes on for 40 days with different feast. After the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, which is Palm Sunday, we have Easter which is called in our church the Feast of Feasts because it is the resurrection of our Lord or Easter. It is celebrated for 40 days with the song, ďChrist is Risen from the Dead.Ē


Our great services begin on Good Friday, when Christ was crucified and died and was buried.


There is no Divine Liturgy services, but there is a long service where the winding sheet of shroud or another name for it in church is Plashtschanitza, is brough out. The service starts around 2:00 clock in the afternoon. This day, on Friday, is the day of strict fast, where there is no meat and nobody eats until after the veneration of the Plashtschanitza.Itís got the services of Mating and Royal Hours and vespers that afternoon. On Saturday Christ descends into Hades. On the Friday evening (Mating) we bringthe Plashtschanitza out and go around the church three times. The next morning we celebrate the liturgy of St. Basil. About 6:30 in the evening on Saturday we go over to the church and read the book of Acts until 11:30. The Plashtschanitza is carried back into the altar by the priest and they put it on the Bristola or altar or the altar table.


Thatís the service that goes on until midnight. Thatís when we start celebrating Easter and thatís called Pascha. Easter goes on for a long time, about 40 days. It varies throughout the years when Easter is celebrated. Easter is celebrated because of the death and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Forty days after Easter, the Ascension of our Lord where Jesus ascended. On the 40th day He came down from Heaven after He died and on the 50th day is Pentecost which is the ascent of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ and He went into Heaven.


On August 19th we have the Transfiguration of our Lord. What happened on that day was, Jesus appeared before His disciples. He showed the people and the disciples that He was up in Heaven.


Then on the 28th of August weíll have the falling asleep of the Theotokos, where the Virgin Mary passed away. On the 17th of September we have the Nativity of the Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, who was born to Joachim and Anna. On the 27th we have the Adoration and Elevation of the Cross. In Orthodox we sing the Troparion. Troparion is the song of the Feast. We sing, ďOh Lord, Save Thy People, and Bless Thine Inheritance.Ē


On the 4th of December we have the presentation of Theotokos into the temple, or the entrance of our most Holy Lady into the temple. Thatís when the high priest Zacharious led the Virgin Mary into the Holy of Holies of the temple. The holy of Holies of the temple is in the alter.


Starring is when people go around to houses with the Star and sing Christmas carols. They go to all houses where orthodox believers live. It happens on Christmas day, January 7th, and goes on until the 17th of January, most of the time. We have starring here in Port Graham until the 9th of January.Or when people want the Star between the 7th and the 17th we take the Star to the house where they want the Star.


Masking is like the time King Herod was trying to get after all boys that were just born. King Herod was jealous because Jesus Christ was born and he wanted all the male babies killed. Thereís no relation of masking to starring. Masking goes on from the 8th to the 17th of January. They catch their shadows on the 17th of January for good luck in the summer.


The only time orthodox marriages are not to be performed are on the eve of Wednesday and Friday of the whole year or on the eve of Sunday or any major holidays or during Lent seasons like Christmas Lent, Great Lent or St. Peter great fast or the Dormition fast. Dormition is falling asleep of the Virgin Mary. Also from the Christmas until after Theophany, which is the baptism of our Lord and on the week before Great Lent and on the week after Easter. On the eve or the day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, which is on the 11th of September. On the eve or the day of the Exaltation of the holy cross which is the elevation of the cross.


People are baptized about 8 days or so after they are born, or when ever itís an emergency, they are baptized right after they are born. They baptize them by submersion into water, holy water. After the priest baptizes them, they have Chrismation or Holy Unction. The priest marks a person or a child with the holy oil on the hands, ears, eyes and feet. If they are boys they will be carried into the altar. If they are girls they will be brought in front of the doors.


The holy water is made by the priest on the 19th of January which is the baptism of our Lordís day. After the holy water is made, the priest will go around houses and bless all homes.



Copyright 1981,Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.All rights reserved

Volume 2