It’s time for Beaver County Memories, presented by St. Barnabas   For many people in Beaver County, Christmas celebrations happened twice a year, and  in this edition of Beaver County Memories,  we will take a look at some of the traditions of Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on January Seventh  every year.

First of all, let’s clear the air.  Christmas is Celebrated on December twenty fifth in both traditional and orthodox Christian faiths.  The difference lies in which calendar is used.  The traditional and oldest calendar used, in which December twenty fifth occurs thirteen days later, is the Julian calendar.   Latin Pope Gregory proposed using a different calendar, not surprisingly known as  the Gregorian calendar, in 1582 which moved Christmas day, or December twenty fifth, about two weeks earlier.  Many Orthodox faiths continued  following the Julian calendar instead of the newer, more common, Gregorian calendar, and thus, January seventh is now known as “Orthodox Christmas”.  Another common term given to the day in Beaver County, because of the many immigrants from Serbia and the large Serbian Orthodox church membership residing in the area is “Serbian Christmas”.

Midland was one community in Beaver County where Orthodox Christmas was celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm. With Serbian and Syrian orthodox churches in town, Midland had so many people that celebrated the latter version of the holiday that for a while, the town used the marketing slogan “A town with two Christmases”.   The town came alive for Orthodox Christmas eve  when a big truck flat bed carrying a Tamburitzan band with load speakers blaring the music, would drive through the streets of Midland.  The moving concert would be followed by passenger cars honking their horns.   Reportedly, wedding celebrations of years ago in Midland would also include the same tradition of people following the bride and groom’s car and drive through town for all to see and hear after the wedding ceremony.

Another cherished memory of Orthodox Christmas happened every year in Aliquippa.   WBVP would broadcast the midnight mass on Orthodox Christmas Eve live from St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church on Main Street.  The broadcast was so popular that finding sponsorship wasn’t hard at all and usually it was underwritten by neighboring C. & L. Supermarket.

An Orthodox Christmas feast would traditionally include a pig roast for the Serbian gathering, and Lamb for the Syrians.   Children of Orthodox faith households would be pulled from school on the big day to be at home with their families and enjoy the holiday.   It is rumored that friends of Orthodox households had it the best growing up in Beaver County, as they celebrated their own traditional Christmas on December twenty fifth, and then celebrated again at  their friend’s house on January seventh.

This has been a look back at Orthodox Christmas , part of Beaver County Memories, brought to you by St. Barnabas . Tune in everyday at this time for another beaver county memory on beaver county radio 1230 WBVP , 1460 WMBA and 99.3 F.M.