Eastern Europe celebrates Christmas according to the old Julian calendar date of January 7. However, they celebrate New Years by the new Gregorian calender like most everyone else.
So, I went to church on January 7 to attend a Christmas Day celebration. Toward the end of the service they had prepared a video that was taken at a local school. The question: which celebration is more meaningful to you: New Years or Christmas? Well, I knew what the bulk of the answers were going to be before they finished the video: New Years.
You see, Ukrainians, Russians and most of the former Soviet Union have huge celebrations on New Year’s eve or day. They have a decorated tree for New Years so it is not called a “Christmas tree” like in the US. (I am fully aware of some businesses trying to change the name of the tree to holiday…). They give gifts, enjoy lots of food and beverages during their celebration as well. Everything they do is tied around January 1.
So, seven days later when they celebrate Christmas, it is much more subdued with a few traditions as well. One of those includes children going door to door to tell some story or sing a song and then get some kind of gift (candy or money).
By now, you probably have figured out which holiday is more meaningful to Ukrainians in the video: New Years. There was only one person in the video that said that Christmas was more meaningful to them. My heart was somewhat broken by the responses.
But it also caused me to ponder about Americans. I know the vast majority of Americans would say Christmas is more meaningful. However, suppose for a moment, that we placed more emphasis on New Years and gave gifts, had huge meals and all the traditions of Christmas and celebrated them on New Years. Would most Americans still say that Christmas was more meaningful to them?
As we move into 2012, may we always remember the true reason, no matter the season.