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Ionnis
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« on: December 01, 2008, 05:40:38 PM »

Hello Everyone,

My name is Seth.  This is my first post here on Orthodox Christianity dot net.  I am newly baptized (Sept 08) and have some questions pertaining to the week of Nativity.  This will be my first time experiencing Nativity in the Orthodox Church. 

So, here are my questions:

1.  What should I expect the week of Christmas?  Is the Liturgy different than usual?  Is there a certain service book I should pick up to familiarize myself with the Liturgies that take place during this week? 

2.  What is expected of me during this time?  Are there certain customs relating to Christmas in the Russian Orthodox Church that I should be aware of, or that I might want to participate in? 

3.  Is it appropriate to give a gift to my parish priest?  Should I give one to the deacon as well? 

Normally I would ask my priest these questions, but I figured it would be nice to hear from a variety of people.  Oftentimes we forget a lot of things because there are so many practices surrounding this holiday that many take the events for granted.  Assume that I know absolutely nothing about Orthodox Christmas, particularly the customs of the Russians. 

Thank you for your time, consideration, and most importantly, your patience! 

Seth
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2008, 05:43:27 PM »

while I don't have any answers to your questions, I would love to hear the responses, as the wife and I plan on attending an OCA church (w/ Great Russian customs) for Christmas this year.  she always asks me what to expect and what may be different from our usual Carpatho-Rusyn practice as the Eastern Catholic parish we've been attending .
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2008, 06:16:26 PM »

Welcome, Seth!

Don't be surprised if a few people give you small gifts like a candy bar or a card, but I don't think priests and deacons tend to accept gifts.  They usually encourage giving to the parish as a whole or giving alms for the needy. 

I'll let our more seasoned members talk about the liturgical aspects of Nativity.  I'm pretty new to Orthodoxy myself so I can't quite explain much of it yet.
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2008, 06:43:22 PM »

I've seen different customs.

Many parishes have a holy supper (Sviata Vechera) on the eve of the Nativity.  Some have Ukrainian/Carpatho-Rusyn Christmas carols before a compline and then a midnight Liturgy.  Some have compline the night before then Liturgy in the morning with carols afterwards.  Some churches put up a nativity scene and a tree.  I'd say just go, it is your first year and every parish does something different.
Some parishes trade gifts on St. Nicholas' day. 
I would ask your priest what goes on in your parish because every parish is just a tad different. 
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2008, 06:48:37 PM »

Hello Seth

Unlike Holy Week and Easter, where the liturgical cycle is greatly expanded and "specialised", the Nativity season follows the standard forms of liturgical practice. Christmas Eve vigil, if it falls on a day other than Saturday, consists of Great Compline and Matins, rather than the more common Great Vespers and Matins (the same happens for Theophany and Annunciation vigils). Christmas Day Liturgy is still essentially the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, with the antiphons and troparia appointed for the feast.

As for gift-giving, there are no firm traditions I am aware of among either the Greeks or the Slavs, though, in western societies, it is not unusual for gifts to be exchanged among friends. But this is not a church tradition in itself.
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2008, 09:34:25 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Seth!

Quote
Is it appropriate to give a gift to my parish priest?  Should I give one to the deacon as well? 

I think this might have to do with what type of relationship you have with your priest. For example, besides house blessings, our priest has visited our house a number of times just to talk about various issues that we are dealing with, so we have a bit of a closer relationship with him than others might with their own priest. We've also given him books in the past when we didn't need them to do with as he wanted (either keep them or add them to the Church library), so there is already a pattern of giving there to also take into consideration. On the other hand, things are tight money wise this year, and it's almost Christmas time so we're approaching the deadline for ordering something online. All factors to consider I guess.
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2008, 02:44:23 AM »

I think this might have to do with what type of relationship you have with your priest.

Along these lines, I typically give a gift to the entire family of my priest, and I actually hand it to our Presbytera at our Nativity service. It's more or less some treats I've made (I tend to give boxes of handmade goodies to those in my church I am close to), and a few others small things that I know that would be appreciated. I don't spend much money on it, for reasons that EofK enumerated, but I do like to acknowledge my gratitude to them in some small way.
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2008, 01:12:17 AM »

Thank you very much for the responses!
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