Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Not the Polar Bear Club: It's Orthodox Epiphany

What would it take for you to plunge yourself into icy waters? Over the weekend, more than 90,000 devout Russians visited frozen rivers and ponds across the land, peeled off clothing down to their swim suits and dipped themselves three times in icy waters, so as to imitate Jesus Christ and his baptism in the Jordan River. One fortunate difference: the Biblical account doesn't mention ice. No surprise there. . .

This exercise is part of the January 19th epiphany, an official holiday on the Russian Orthodox calendar.

These hearty believers dip themselves under the water three times, one time each for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One man, shown in a video I encountered somewhere,  added two more dips, one of those being for Russia, as I understood him. Now that's patriotism.

Folks immerse themselves to receive forgiveness of sins and, as I was reminded by a previous post, the fewer sins one has, the less frigid the water will feel. Thus the expression, Oh the water really wasn't all that cold! Being healed of illnesses is another goal of this exercise. As one Orthodox priest explained, each January 19th, water is thought to miraculously revert to the perfect water, as it was just after the Creation, thus with healing powers..

Well, although I'm not in particular agreement with this practice, I'm in awe of what folks are willing to do in hopes of getting closer to God. Here are lots more photographs from English Russia.

Have you ever jumped into icy cold waters. . . for whatever reason? Please do share!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wrapping the Holiday Season: Russia Celebrates *Old New Year*

It's January 14th and today Russia finishes the holiday season by celebrating the Old New Year. This week, folks will be dismantling their holiday decorations and dumpsters will be full of Christmas trees. But before bidding a heart-felt dos vedanya (до свидания), that is, See you later to this season, please join me for a look around our beloved Rostov-on-Don to see a few decorations from the holidays.

Here comes a family on an outing, bet they've just been to see Father Frost. (Click to enlarge photo.) On the left, they're walking  past the *Kingdom of Furs.* Poster on right *(Congratulations) with the New Olympic Year! Rostov-on-Don. 2013-2014.

In Theater Square, the largest poster in town is probably on this bank building. It's simply massive. Again, *(Congratulations) with the New Olympic Year! Rostov-on-Don. 2013-2014.*

McDonalds is always fun, it's name still recognizable in the Cyrillic Alphabet. Windows are jazzed up with twinkle lights. This McDonald's on Pyshkinskaya Boulevard is a favorite hangout for university students. The free Wi-Fi certainly doesn't hurt! 

In the McDonald's window, *Taste of the Season Spicy* Items are Beef Roll Spicy, Caesar Roll Spicy and Royal DeLuxe Spicy.

Yours Truly with poster for Beeline, a cell phone service provider. Poster says *(Congratulations) with the Upcoming Holidays!*

The Old New Year is a throw-back to the Julian Calendar which Russia abandoned after the Russian Revolution of 1917, if I'm not mistaken, when they switched to the Gregorian Calendar as is used in the west. Oh, but to keep things interesting, the Russian Orthodox Church declined to switch to the updated calendar and even today continues with the Julian Calendar which means that they're two weeks behind. So although today is January 14th on the street, step into an Russian Orthodox Church and viola, the calendar spins two weeks in reverse, so that it's January 1st as per the old calendar. Thus the name, the Old New Year. 

What's the purpose of this calendar dance? Granted, there could be a profoundly spiritual reason to someone, somewhere. Or perhaps the Old New Year simply provides folks another opportunity to celebrate. And the Russian folk, bless their dear souls, are quite fond of celebrating. The traditional fare for Old New Year is vareniki and most certainly across Russia today, women folk have been busily mashing potatoes, rolling dough, filling and serving these little potato-filled dumplings. You might enjoy a favorite blog post about varenkiki, Here's to a Bean in Your Dumpling!

More about the Old New Year:

Vareniki or not, wishing you and yours a very blessed official end of the holiday season!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Russian Calendar: First Official Work Day of 2014

Today, January 9th is the first black day of the new year on the Russian calendar. You see, January 7th is Russian Orthodox Christmas, thus an official day off or red day and the 8th is a buffer day of sorts. So for many, today was the first day back into usual work-a-day routine.

Margarita is tickled with her new calendar. (Click to enlarge photo.)

Speaking of calendars, they are my usual gift for the holidays so I'm self-proclaimed queen of calendars. The Bible League publishes attractive wall calendars with a Bible verse and scenic photograph for each month. These are available through a local Christian bookstore and the manager stocks a box of 50 calendars especially for me.They're perfect for sharing with church family, neighbors, friends and it's a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year with a fresh page each month.

Gotta love this calendar with the Kremlin clock tower.

Three-month calendars such as this are used in many offices with a view of the past month, present month and future. This calendar hangs on my office door and the early morning routine, when still I'm barely coherent, is to slide the red square over onto the new day.

Nice that the month and days are in English as well as Russian.
Here's a zoom in on this month. As you see, Sundays are considered the last day of the week. Although in my book, Sunday will always be the first day of the week.

Surrounded by horses. The very best ones have been snatched up already.
By the way, 2014 is the Year of the Horse, as per the Chinese horoscope. And so we're surrounded by horses fashioned from onyx, fabric, paper and ceramic.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
We have hope: Whether it's the year of the dragon, the snake, the horse or the pig; whether the day is a red day or black, God is in His heaven and rules as King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah, Amen!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Here's to Russian Orthodox Christmas

Greetings from Russia where it's Christmas Eve as per the Russian Orthodox Calendar. There's a reason for that, of course, and this afternoon at the area supermarket, folks were rather intense, gathering last-minute groceries for the holiday. Care to join me for a quick look?

Entrance to local supermarket decorated in royal blue, the traditional Christmas color. Friends have been intrigued to learn about the western choice of red and green.

"Herring under a fur coat" is a popular holiday dish. It's a multi-layered, labor intensive salad folks make special for winter holidays. Or. . . you can buy a slab at the supermarket. Why such a name for a salad? I'm guessing that here in the land of exotic fur coats, this could be translated as "gussied up herring and veggie salad."

"Could chicken be substituted for the herring," I asked this lady in the food-to-go department. She nearly fainted at the very notion and insisted that anything other than herring would be unorthodox.

Here's how the pro's whip up this dish. Well, whether or not you go for herring in a fur coat for this holiday, wishing you a wonder Russian Orthodox Christmas!