Russia, without ‘Christmas’

In the thirty post-Soviet years, Christmas used to be doubled: December 25 of the Gregorian calendar was accepted, without this conflicting with January 7 of the Julian calendar of the Orthodox Church. However, with the war, Christians have once again clashed over the dates of the liturgical calendar. And then I remember how the first schism of the second century was overcome thanks to Irenaeus, a saint from Asia who went to preach in Gaul, inaugurating the meeting of souls and the great currents of Christian spirituality.

Christmas 2022 comes after more than 300 days of war in Ukraine. In Russia, he is presented in extremely scruffy and tattered clothing, like that dirty green of Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz) that takes us back to the old pagan Slavic tradition. It is he who has taken the place of the brand new Anglo-Saxon Santa Claus dressed in red by the work and grace of Coca-Cola and hated like all the “false values ​​of the West.” Certainly, there will be no trace of Latin cribs, except in some corner of the frightened Catholic parishes, scattered throughout the vast territory of the empire at war against the world.

In the three decades after the Soviet era, Christmas was often doubled: December 25 of the Gregorian calendar was accepted, without this conflicting with January 7 of the Julian calendar of the Orthodox Church. But it was not about an ecumenical opening, but about a commercial invasion of numerous and gigantic shops in Moscow and in the main cities. Today, however, these places look almost deserted due to the flight of foreign companies – when they are not destroyed by fires, more and more frequent, due to poor maintenance or perhaps the damnation memoriae. Ikea, Auchan, Carrefour, Obi and Bricofer are no longer there, the most vacuous and sugary accessories and slogans are no longer there, which since November have been bombarded in all latitudes. Christmas, after all, is the holiday of exchanging gifts and good wishes. This has been the case since its institution in ancient imperial Rome, and also in the Christian era -although with even anti-Christian functions- and later it was adopted by Christians with an anti-imperial vision.

The Christians of the East, of Alexandria and Antioch, in the first centuries did not immediately assume this transformation, since they were more refractory to the Roman-Christian fusion. They celebrated Christmas on January 6, a holiday that was later codified as Epiphany. However, in its beginnings, the party was called Theophany, mystery of all divine manifestations in the Incarnation, the Adoration of the Magi and the Baptism of Jesus, the event that expresses the divine nature of Christ before the nations.

These dates lined up historically in different ways, and the Orthodox further complicated the chronological confrontation by rejecting the papal calendar of 1582. It was precisely the Russians – who proclaimed the Patriarchate of Moscow seven years later – who rose up against the Roman attempt to subdue the whole world also in the numbering of days. And, since then, the distance has been maintained not only for Christmas and all liturgical festivals, but also in broader dimensions of the spirit and historical consciousness. As an example, it is enough to mention that the “October Revolution” really took place on November 7, when the old calendar did not contemplate the delay of almost two weeks.

Emerging from the Soviet mists – where the New Year was celebrated without religion, but with much pagan folklore – the Russians gladly adopted the Western “Christmas” celebration, krizmes in its Russian version. And after the noise of New Year’s Eve they dedicated themselves to waiting for Orthodox Christmas on January 7. With this dance of dates, the “Old New Year” (Staryj Novyj God) was moved to January 14, and Epiphany is solemnly celebrated on the 19th. Krescenie, the Baptism of the Lord, which in Russia assumes the experience of “extreme” Orthodoxy: plunging into the Jordan, the cross-shaped opening in the frozen lakes, in memory of the immersion of Christ in the Jordan. President Putin is always among the first to don his shorts – despite the 20 degrees below zero – and plunge into the sacred pool of Russian identity: the Great Baptismal Ice, the Krescenskye Morozi that no other people is capable of practicing.

Now the ice exposes not only devout pride in all its dimensions, but also the dramatic state of the Russian-led war against Ukraine and the entire West. On the war front, in Bakhmut, Christmas and New Year are celebrated in cellars and dugouts, where the Elke (Christmas trees) and all the Christian symbols of East and West, nativity scenes and icons. Russian leaders want the entire Western world to experience “the coldest winter in history.” However, so far, the weather seems to be on the side of Biden and Zelenskyj, who have just exchanged affectionate greetings accompanied by gifts -Patriot missiles- generating more and more rancor in the Kremlin.

In addition, frost also falls in Russia and the cold reaches homes, where there is no heating due to consequences always linked to war -from the shortage of energy to the lack of technicians and maintenance shifts, all dedicated to war operations. . Large New Year’s scenes borrowed from the Soviet past also focus on the rhetoric of the apocalyptic showdown with the West. Many governors have canceled or reduced the expenses of these days, or decided to donate the collections of the citizens -products and gifts- to the soldiers sent to fight on the front lines. There is no “Christmas truce” like the one in 1914 – between the British and the Germans – in the First World War. Rather, a “Christmas offensive” is feared: to obtain Victory instead of Theophany, in a mystical substitution of the Child for the People.

Just as Joseph and Mary moved to Bethlehem on the occasion of Augustus’ census – which was intended to make the whole world the seat of the one Rome – today it is Ukrainian refugees and Asian and African immigrants who have the duty to register according to the identity of the new empire. Therefore, in Russia, the government has decided to require all Ukrainian refugees or forcibly displaced persons to destroy their documents, replacing the kyiv Trident with the Moscow Eagle. Anyone possessing documents or credentials with Ukrainian symbols, if caught, could be sentenced to between 8 and 15 years in prison, if only for keeping the old maps showing Crimea as part of Ukraine. The Holy People is one, the identities are summarized in that of Great Russia, as in the time of the Caesars and the Tsars.

The double-headed eagle that distinguishes the Russian flag is actually a heritage from Imperial Rome. It was adopted by the Russians who dreamed of the Third Rome, but also by the Habsburgs, the Serbs, the Armenians and even the Indians. It was the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, who envisioned the eagle of power looking East and West, Asia and Europe, in the new division of the empire after the founding of Constantinople, the Second Rome.

The princes of Moscow who longed to become Caesar received it as a gift from a Byzantine princess, Sofia Paleologa, who at the end of the 15th century had been sent to Moscow by Pope Paul II, with the vain illusion of converting the Grand Duke Ivan to Catholicism. III. Since then, the Moscow claim to translation imperii it has known many forms, always stamped by the imperial eagle – replaced for a few decades by the hammer and sickle, symbols of the communist and Stalinist religion.

For all these reasons, in 1992 Ukraine decided to proclaim its independence, affirming for the first time a national conscience, a symbol that highlighted a different conception of the “Russian world”, in a Western version.

The coat of arms of Ukraine became the Trizub, the Trident attributed to Prince Vladimir -who baptized Kievan Rus in the year 988- and to the entire line of Rjurikid monarchs, descendants of the mythical Varangian Rjurik, true founder of the lands. russian. This dynasty culminated after the delusions of grandeur of Ivan the Terrible at the end of the 16th century, with the reign of Boris Godunov that paved the way for the Romanovs, the Russifying tsars so hated by the Ukrainians and so exalted by Putin. With the war of “passports” symbols will be replaced, so that no trace of heretical and “satanic” memories remain, which could overshadow the new cult that “will save the world.”

In Ukraine, on the other hand, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Metropolitan Epifanyj has officially decided that all local communities will be able to choose on which date to celebrate Christmas (Rizdvo in Ukrainian language): December 25 or January 7, depending on their traditions and customs and the sensitivity of priests and parishioners. The issue was a permanent discussion since the delivery of Volumes of ecclesiastical autonomy by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who in turn declared that he was willing to agree on the Christmas and Easter calendar with the Pope of Rome, to overcome the divisions of the past.

Christians have been fighting over the dates of the liturgical calendar since apostolic times. The first schism was overcome by Saint Irenaeus of Lyon in the 2nd century. He convinced the Pope not to excommunicate anyone who wanted to celebrate Easter before or after the dates established according to the Jewish and Judeo-Christian traditions. The saint was originally from Asia and went to preach in Gaul, inaugurating the meeting of souls and the great currents of Christian spirituality, rediscovering the miracle of a child who came to Bethlehem from Galilee. The Holy Family traveled from the land of the pagans to that of the house of David, without eagles or three-pointed spears, warming themselves in the cold thanks to the “pagan breath” of the donkey (symbol of the Gentiles, according to Irenaeus) and the ” orthodox breath” of the ox, and Jesus became the incarnate symbol of peace among all peoples.

Russia, without ‘Christmas’