The greatest festivals of Orthodox church (Part 1)

2nd High School of Kozani

Pupils: Batsila Christina, Naka Irene,Mouratidou Maria, Diadiasi Nikoletta, Mentolli Sofia, Paschalidou Despena, Papaeconomou Katerina, Papadimitriou Matina, Bliachoutas Giorgos, Nestoras Kyriakos, Papadopoulos Apostolis, Beberi Penelopi.

The most important festivals in Greek Orthodox church and in our local community are:

St. Nicholas day

Christmas

Epiphany


St. Nickolas day

2nikolas.jpgSt. Nicholas, Nikolaos, is the patron saint of Greece, where his primary role is as the protector of sailors and seamen. At Christmas small fishing boats honor St. Nicholas, especially in the islands, with decorations of blue and white lights. There is a tradition that his clothes are soaked with brine, his beard always dripping with seawater, because he has been fighting storms to reach sinking ships and save men from drowning. Greek ships carry an icon of St. Nicholas, as he is regarded as master of wind and tempest. Sailors light a candle before the icon, praying for safe journeys. When a ship is in danger the captain prays making a solemn promise to bring a “tama”, a gift to the saint, such as a small ship of silver, gold, or carved of wood, if they reach the port safely. On return from such a voyage, the captain and sailors bring the “tama”, representing their ship, to church. In thanksgiving for their safety, they put it on a St. Nicholas icon. As you see, St. Nicholas' feast is one of great devotion in Greece.

Pc060018.jpgKozani, although is a mountainous area, consider St. Nickolas a great protector and all the people show their respect and faith in the day of his feast. After the Holy Communion all the Pc060026.jpgpeople participate in the procession of the icon of St. Nickolas, pupils holding the flags of their schools, boy and girl scouts, the army and the local band. Priests hold the icon of St. Nickolas and our bishop walks with other priests. This is a great day for Kozani!


Pc060039.jpgNamedays.

The saints and the angels are an important part of the Greek Orthodox church and faith. Every orthodox Greek is named after a saint. This is obligatory if the child is going to be baptized. This means, that on each saint's day, thousands of Greeks celebrate their name days. Generally, the name day is more celebrated in Greece than the birthday, and part of the celebration involves offering sweets to those around you and having some sort of party. If someone you know is having his or her name day, the appropriate thing to say to them is "ΧΡΟΝΙΑ ΠΟΛΛΑ", meaning "LIVE MANY YEARS". All the boys and men of Greece called "Nikos" celebrate in St. Nickolas day.

Christmas

j0216154.jpgThe Feast of the Nativity of Jesus is one of the most joyful days of the Orthodox Church. The Feast of the Birth of Jesus is also known as the "Incarnation of Christ." This means that Jesus became a man and came into the world to save us. We also refer to this joyous feast as Christmas.

To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the list of important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated with Christmas that are uniquely Greek.candles.jpg

As with Pascha, or Easter, the Feast of the Nativity begins with a period of preparation. It is accompanied by a fast, which is corresponding to Lent and lasting for forty days. The fast begins on November 15. Christmas is celebrated with lavish decorations and lights strung across most of the streets in major cities and towns. In Greece, there are many Christmas customs that are similar, yet slightly different from the West. Such as the custom on Christmas Eve where village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing 'kalanda', the equivalent of Christmas carols. The children often accompany the songs using small metal triangles and little drums. Afterwards, the children are usually given sweets or coins as a gift. In Greek Christmas, the feast itself becomes the main attraction by both adults and children alike. After 40 days of fasting, adults and children look the Christmas feast forward to with great anticipation. Lamb and pork are roasted in ovens and on almost every table are loaves of 'christopsomo' ('Christ bread'). This bread is usually made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family's profession. Gifts are finally exchanged on St. Basil's Day (January1st) .

Icon of the Nativity

nativ.jpgThe icon of the Nativity tells the story of Christ's birth from the Scriptures. It also shows that all creation is taking part in Christ's birth. This Holy Icon is an icon with many scenes. The angels give thanks with their song; the heavens give the star; the Wise Men give their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The poor shepherds give their praise and amazement; the earth gives the cave, and humanity gives the Virgin. The Holy Icon of the Nativity reminds one to praise the Birth of Christ and you can see it in every orthodox church. The celebration of Christmas each year serves to remind each and everyone of us that Christ came for all of us.

See our school's chorus singing traditional Christmas carols

Epiphany

On both days, the 5th and 6th of January, P1062013.jpgThe Service of the Blessing of the Waters on the Epiphany takes place. It is an invocation of God's illumination and wisdom. The faithful participate on this divine occasion as active members of the sacred Body of Christ-His Church. After the Matins and Divine Liturgy, the Priest comes forth into the center of the Nave (many times outside the Church) to the vessel with clean water. It is a solemn procession when the people sings an hymn. The reading of the Gospel is from St. Mark who relates the story of the baptism of Jesus Christ and the Epiphany of the Holy Trinity. Thus the readings are completed and followed by the blessings of the waters. And straightway, after blessing the waters with the sign of the Cross, the Priest immerses the sacred Cross upright in the water and raises it again, singing the special for this day Hymn: The Priest blesses the people and chants the hymn. After the service, the faithful receives sanctified water and takes it home and fota2004a.jpgreverently drinks of it and sprinkles it around his home and field reciting the hymn. Some of the Priests, especially on January 5th or soon after, visit the homes of their parishioners and sprinkles sanctified water in the homes and fields reciting the hymn.

In some cities and towns a custom prevails that the people after the service, go to the nearby rivers or sea shores where the Priest throws the Cross into the waters. Divers are waiting to recover the Cross from the water and return it to the Priest. (take a look here)

In places far from sea, lakes or rivers all this ceremony is held in a piscine or in the church.


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