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Author Topic: "Old Calendar" Christmas?  (Read 3935 times) Average Rating: 0
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Eugenio
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« on: December 08, 2009, 12:28:24 AM »

I'm a (relatively) new parent who is has a question for those of you with children who attend "Old Calendar" Orthodox churches:

How do your children deal with (what I would consider) the issue of celebrating Christmas on Jan. 7 instead of Dec. 25, as most Americans do? I can imagine the situation your children face: Their peers and playmates are opening their presents, eating turkey and having a grand time while your family is fasting. Then school resumes and now it's Christmastime in your household.

Does this cause confusion with your kids? What questions did they ask you about this, and how did you respond? Do you then give your own children a day or two off from school to celebrate "their" Christmastime?

This question is NOT aimed at kindling an Old vs. New Calendar debate. If it devolves to that, I'll quit reading this thread as I've seen plenty of those.  Roll Eyes I'm wondering about praxis in an Orthodox Christian household. As there are virtually no "Old Calendar" Orthodox churches in my area, I wouldn't even know of a person to ask these questions.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing from converts who converted to "Old Calendar" Orthodoxy. Did any of you face the situation of telling your children that you were going to celebrate Christmas on a different day? How did your kids handle that?

Or for those of you who were raised in "Old Calendar" Orthodox households, what were your memories of "Old Calendar" Christmas? Did you feel different? Do you have good memories or bad memories of celebrating Christmas on a different date?

(I'm recalling a quote I read sometime where a Jewish person said that Jewish-American celebrations of Hanukkah - actually a minor feast on the Jewish calendar) was one of the most formative experiences of the Jewish-American identity. Did the celebration of Christmas on Jan. 7 form your identity as an Orthodox Christian?)

As for myself, most of my experiences in Orthodoxy have been with churches in the Greek Archdiocese of America, all of which are on the "New" calendar. I've observed that in these churches, Christmas seems to be a much more low-key, subdued experience than observations of Christmas in western Christian churches.

Are there any special Christmas traditions that Orthodox churches on the "Old" Calendar tend to observe? Is it a major holiday for you all, or is it also a fairly low-key, subdued experience?

Hoping to generate some light here, and not heat. A blessed Nativity season to all - no matter when you celebrate Christ's birth!
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2009, 12:46:39 AM »

I was raised in a Ukrainian Orthodox family that celebrates OC Christmas. This is how it is done in my family. (Not saying this is completely within the canons of the Church, but this is how we did it.)

Dec 24 we would go to my Mom's parents' house for dinner, and then go with them to Midnight Mass. (My Mom's parents are Polish Catholic.) On Dec 25 we did the presents and the whole "Santa Claus" thing. My father's cousin would have a large party for the entire family to get together and we'd go over there after opening our presents in the morning. Dec 25 was/is basically the big obnoxious American holiday that the media pushes it to be.

Jan 7, on the other hand, was quite different. Jan 7 we went to Church, we prayed, and afterwards, we would have a proper Ukrainian meal at my Grandmother's house.

Dec 25 was about Santa Claus and presents.

Jan 7 was the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. The entire day was spent in prayer and with family. It was actually really nice because it was a quieter holiday, and allowed us to focus just on Christ, since the presents were out of the way.

My family has always, and continues to, leave our Christmas tree up until after Jan 7. And yes, it is a fresh tree. Smiley

On a side note, last year I was living in Atlanta and unable to come home for OC Christmas. I was attending a GOA parish, so they had already celebrated Christmas, but in my heart I wanted "Ukrainian Christmas" as my family calls it.

So, I invited all my Greek friends over on Jan 7th and fed them mushrooms, vereniky (pierogies), halubtsi (cabbage rolls), halushki (cabbage & noodles), kielbasi and saurkraut. They had never had it before, but they loved it!

It was great!

And that's how my family celebrates OC Christmas. Smiley
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 12:48:35 AM by HandmaidenofGod » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2009, 01:07:39 AM »

Sounds absolutely wonderful, HandMaiden.   Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2009, 01:09:04 AM »

My wife and I are the only Orthodox in our family.
Dec. 25 we gather at my mother's and exchange presents and have a meal. The family knows and supports that we are fasting so there is fast-friendly options and we also bring something good and fast-friendly to share.
On Old Calendar Christmas with the commercial season behind us we can devote ourselves better to the Nativity season. When I was working for someone else I would get the day off (same with Pascha) but now I am self-employed so it's even easier to get off work :-)
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Michael L
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2009, 01:10:02 AM »

I was raised in a Ukrainian Orthodox family that celebrates OC Christmas. This is how it is done in my family. (Not saying this is completely within the canons of the Church, but this is how we did it.)

Dec 24 we would go to my Mom's parents' house for dinner, and then go with them to Midnight Mass. (My Mom's parents are Polish Catholic.) On Dec 25 we did the presents and the whole "Santa Claus" thing. My father's cousin would have a large party for the entire family to get together and we'd go over there after opening our presents in the morning. Dec 25 was/is basically the big obnoxious American holiday that the media pushes it to be.

Jan 7, on the other hand, was quite different. Jan 7 we went to Church, we prayed, and afterwards, we would have a proper Ukrainian meal at my Grandmother's house.

Dec 25 was about Santa Claus and presents.

Jan 7 was the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. The entire day was spent in prayer and with family. It was actually really nice because it was a quieter holiday, and allowed us to focus just on Christ, since the presents were out of the way.

My family has always, and continues to, leave our Christmas tree up until after Jan 7. And yes, it is a fresh tree. Smiley

On a side note, last year I was living in Atlanta and unable to come home for OC Christmas. I was attending a GOA parish, so they had already celebrated Christmas, but in my heart I wanted "Ukrainian Christmas" as my family calls it.

So, I invited all my Greek friends over on Jan 7th and fed them mushrooms, vereniky (pierogies), halubtsi (cabbage rolls), halushki (cabbage & noodles), kielbasi and saurkraut. They had never had it before, but they loved it!

It was great!

And that's how my family celebrates OC Christmas. Smiley


Thanks for sharing, it is a wonderful family tradition. I think that many converts to Orthodoxy(Old Calendar) who have family of other faiths can appreciate and learn from your experience.

Here is some additional advice on the topic regarding an American Christmas vs. Orthodox Nativity: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/americanchristmas.aspx
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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2009, 07:04:49 PM »

Saint Finnian of Clonard - 12/25 December

Hieromonk Michael (Wood) of Tasmania, posted this originally on Occidentalis in Sept. of 2007.  It seems that the Russian Church Abroad allows the fast on 25th December to be abolished.  Fr Michael says, in one of his blogs, this is for the sake of people who have mixed families and celebrate with their non-Orthodox family members or with family members on the New Calendar.  I do not know if this relaxation on 25th December is only for the Irish Orthodox or if it extends to the whole Russian Church Abroad.

[from Fr. Michael:] The Advent Fast is for forty days, through to the eve of the Holy Nativity, during which period fish may be eaten.  The exception to this is the Feast of Saint Finnian, Skellig Michael Monastery and Orthodox Monasticism in the West (25th of December) on which day the fast is entirely relaxed.

This great Saint is often called the "Teacher of the Irish Saints." At one time his pupils
at Clonard included the so-called Twelve Apostles of Ireland:

Brendan of Birr (f.d. November 29)
Brendan the Voyager (f.d. May 16)
Cainnech (f.d. October 11)
Ciaran of Clommacnois (f.d. September 9)
Columba of Iona (f.d. June 9)
Columba of Terryglass (f.d. today)
Comgall of Bangor (f.d. May 11)
Finian of Moville (f.d. September 10)
Kieran of Saigher (f.d. March 5)
Mobhi (f.d. October 12)
Molaise (Laserian) of Devendish (f.d. August 12)
Ninidh of Inismacsaint (f.d. January 18)
Ruadhan of Lothra (f.d. April 15)
Sinell of Cleenish (f.d.October 12).

(You might note that this is more than 12; this is a very elastic twelve
with different saints added at different times)

Here is a brief Life of Saint Finnian:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints/message/3267
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2009, 07:48:25 PM »

We don't have children yet, but one of the things I really look forward to is celebrating Orthodox Christmas with them. It is *so* good to spend Advent focusing not too much on the overblown, money-centric secular 'celebrations', and having Christmas on Jan 7th is a great way of opting out of all of this.

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child. So I think the opportunity to remind children that there is a real religious occasion here, distinct from what they're being told is 'Christmas' by the secular world, is a blessing.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2009, 08:08:28 PM »

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child.  

I hope you're being sarcastic  Huh Cool
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Liz
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2009, 08:18:25 PM »

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child. 

I hope you're being sarcastic  Huh Cool

Why sarcastic? No, I honestly think that the OP's children will grow up glad that they didn't just associate Christmas with the unappealing way it is marketed at us by people trying to make money. I really strongly about this, I think it's really horrible. I don't doubt children love presents and do go through a stage of being competitive and wanting the most expensive things, but that's a brief stage and the OP speaks of being a '(relatively) new parent'. For young children, I don't think mountains of presents have much appeal. Certainly, any two year old will much prefer the empty boxes!

Imagine if you grew up believing the money-driven arguments that come across in Christmas marketing - we're constantly told that you can measure a family's love for each other by how much they spend, that you can measure how good the celebration is by how much is eaten and drunk. Increasingly people seem to be believing this. On the other hand, even atheist friends of mine are glad they had the childhood experiences of going to Midnight Mass or hearing the Christmas readings - these things touch something very deep, and Old Calendar Orthodoxy seems a good way of keeping with this.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 08:22:55 PM by Liz » Logged
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2009, 08:37:44 PM »

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child.  

I hope you're being sarcastic  Huh Cool

Why sarcastic? No, I honestly think that the OP's children will grow up glad that they didn't just associate Christmas with the unappealing way it is marketed at us by people trying to make money. I really strongly about this, I think it's really horrible. I don't doubt children love presents and do go through a stage of being competitive and wanting the most expensive things, but that's a brief stage and the OP speaks of being a '(relatively) new parent'. For young children, I don't think mountains of presents have much appeal. Certainly, any two year old will much prefer the empty boxes!

I thought it might be sarcastic because it doesn't reflect my own experiences at all. Admittedly, I'd have to leave the alcohol part you mentioned out of the equation, but otherwise, I had exactly the opposite experience, as did my family and friends so far as I could tell. I didn't really consider Christmas songs "tasteless"; the closest I came was disliking some of the songs they forced us to sing for choir in junior high. As for stuffing yourself, you gotta be kidding! Smiley My parents were moderately strict about our diet, and Christmas time was one of the few times we could get away with eating stuff like chocolate and candy in large quantities without getting in trouble. What kid wouldn't like that? As far as presents, what kid doesn't like getting all sorts of toys and video games and whatnot? I might also add that as an adult now I still don't consider my past few Christmases to be lacking in "heart". One of my favorite memories from the past decade was watching my oldest daughter tear into her christmas presents last year--the first year that she was old enough to really understand what was going on.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 08:38:51 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
Liz
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2009, 08:43:52 PM »

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child. 

I hope you're being sarcastic  Huh Cool

Why sarcastic? No, I honestly think that the OP's children will grow up glad that they didn't just associate Christmas with the unappealing way it is marketed at us by people trying to make money. I really strongly about this, I think it's really horrible. I don't doubt children love presents and do go through a stage of being competitive and wanting the most expensive things, but that's a brief stage and the OP speaks of being a '(relatively) new parent'. For young children, I don't think mountains of presents have much appeal. Certainly, any two year old will much prefer the empty boxes!

I thought it might be sarcastic because it doesn't reflect my own experiences at all. Admittedly, I'd have to leave the alcohol part you mentioned out of the equation, but otherwise, I had exactly the opposite experience, as did my family and friends so far as I could tell. I didn't really consider Christmas songs "tasteless"; the closest I came was disliking some of the songs they forced us to sing for choir in junior high. As for stuffing yourself, you gotta be kidding! Smiley My parents were moderately strict about our diet, and Christmas time was one of the few times we could get away with eating stuff like chocolate and candy in large quantities without getting in trouble. What kid wouldn't like that? As far as presents, what kid doesn't like getting all sorts of toys and video games and whatnot? I might also add that as an adult now I still don't consider my past few Christmases to be lacking in "heart". One of my favorite memories from the past decade was watching my oldest daughter tear into her christmas presents last year--the first year that she was old enough to really understand what was going on.

Maybe it depends where you are. I know that as a child I felt uneasy when I realized that other children saw Christmas presents as an index of how much you were loved/ how much you cared for your siblings. I don't want to do down the pleasure of giving a present, but there's more to it than presents, and it's sad if that gets obscured. If you're celebrating Christmas on the 7th January, it's much easier to ignore this kind of pressure to make Christmas about money spent, and that must be less confusing for a child.
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2009, 04:49:18 PM »

Increasingly, I think the holiday on the 25th of December has been appropriated as a really unpleasant event. It's not nice for children to feel that Christmas is all about singing tasteless songs, mum and dad and their friends getting drunk, stuffing yourself and having to buy lavish presents for siblings. I don't think that kind of celebration has any heart to it, and very little real pleasure for a child. 

I hope you're being sarcastic  Huh Cool

Why sarcastic? No, I honestly think that the OP's children will grow up glad that they didn't just associate Christmas with the unappealing way it is marketed at us by people trying to make money. I really strongly about this, I think it's really horrible. I don't doubt children love presents and do go through a stage of being competitive and wanting the most expensive things, but that's a brief stage and the OP speaks of being a '(relatively) new parent'. For young children, I don't think mountains of presents have much appeal. Certainly, any two year old will much prefer the empty boxes!

I thought it might be sarcastic because it doesn't reflect my own experiences at all. Admittedly, I'd have to leave the alcohol part you mentioned out of the equation, but otherwise, I had exactly the opposite experience, as did my family and friends so far as I could tell. I didn't really consider Christmas songs "tasteless"; the closest I came was disliking some of the songs they forced us to sing for choir in junior high. As for stuffing yourself, you gotta be kidding! Smiley My parents were moderately strict about our diet, and Christmas time was one of the few times we could get away with eating stuff like chocolate and candy in large quantities without getting in trouble. What kid wouldn't like that? As far as presents, what kid doesn't like getting all sorts of toys and video games and whatnot? I might also add that as an adult now I still don't consider my past few Christmases to be lacking in "heart". One of my favorite memories from the past decade was watching my oldest daughter tear into her christmas presents last year--the first year that she was old enough to really understand what was going on.

Maybe it depends where you are. I know that as a child I felt uneasy when I realized that other children saw Christmas presents as an index of how much you were loved/ how much you cared for your siblings. I don't want to do down the pleasure of giving a present, but there's more to it than presents, and it's sad if that gets obscured. If you're celebrating Christmas on the 7th January, it's much easier to ignore this kind of pressure to make Christmas about money spent, and that must be less confusing for a child.

FWIW, I agree with Liz 100%.

This is why my sister and I enjoy OC Christmas "better" than Christmas on Dec 25. It keeps the focus where it belongs: on Christ and family.

I remember as a kid how my "best" friend would spend weeks trying to figure out, plot, and plan, what her parents got her vs. what she asked for on her Christmas list. After we would return from Christmas break, all discussion centered around "so what did YOU get for Christmas?" (I always hated this, as my parents were always tight on cash.)

There's so much focus on the materialistic side of Christmas, that everything else gets lost.

Last night I decided to take a ride to view the Christmas lights in the surrounding neighborhoods. I turned on my car radio to one of the stations that are playing non-stop Christmas music from now until Dec. 25.

Now let me be clear: they are playing Christmas music. Christmas, a holiday, who's very name has the word "Christ" in it. A holiday created to honor the birth of our Lord.

In the hour or so that I drove around, not ONE song mentioning Christ or His birth was mentioned.

If I were to base my ideas about Christmas soley around last night's music listening, I would think Christmas was about snow, more snow, snow looking like marshmellows, men convincing women to stay at their house because "it's cold outside," reindeer games, and making up with the person you broke up with for Christmas. Oh, and "rockin' around a Christmas tree."

Is there anything wrong with a Christmas feast or giving presents? No, but let's keep it in perspective as to what's really important. Christ and family.
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2009, 06:09:27 PM »


Like HandMaiden, I too grew up in a Ukrainian Orthodox household.

We did not celebrate on the 25th.  However, just like for Pascha, we kept the day quietly and respectfully for our neighbors' sakes, who were celebrating.

For us everything focused on January 7th.  When we were little, our mother enforced a strict fast the first and last week of Lent.  It was simply to hard for us kids, to stick to it otherwise.

On January 6th we went to church in the evening.  Lovely.  The lights and candles twinkling, we, dressed in new clothes (always new clothes were worn for the Nativity).  Afterwards, the parish hosted a "lenten" meal.  I could never understand why it was still Lenten food, even though we were already proclaiming the Birth of Christ!  Everyone sat together and ate of the 12 dishes being served - starting with Kootia (boiled wheat dish) and ending with Ozvar (fruit compote).  Once everyone finished the meal and the prayer was said, then the caroling would commence.  Everyone sang together.  Gifts were exchanged as well.

We would then go home, and open our gifts that were waiting under the tree.  There was no TV, no radio.  Just the family laughing and joking in our pj's under the tree....and lots of wrapping paper everywhere!

In the morning we would again dress in new clothes (usually one of the gifts from the night before) and head off to church.  Everyone was happy and joyous...the air was crisp...

After the lovely Liturgy we would all head to our priest's home and sing carols, have a snack and just enjoy each other's company.  Some would then gather in bunches and drive off to other folks' houses to go caroling.

Then you would finally reach home, exhausted, and sit down to a non-Lenten meal! 

The next day was always a bummer, because it was right back to school...and having missed the day before, it was all "catch up"....plus, having to explain why you were celebrating now, instead of on Dec. 25th.

Don't get me wrong...it was hard as a kid to explain it.  Some years, it was just marked as a sick day, with no explanation until we were older and could speak for ourselves and our beliefs.

University was bad.  It was always the first week of classes, when you would get assigned your lab equipment, etc.  However, we NEVER went to school, work, etc on January 7th.

This year, I've already told everyone at work that I am off.  They all know me now...and have no issues.  They even rescheduled mandatory training to the following week because I would not be there.

I love it!  I would never change the date!  It's special! 

Like folks said before...it's not commercial, it's spiritual, and personal.  Love it, love it!

Sister is married now to a Catholic, so on Dec. 25th her brood of 4 kids joins him at his mom's house.  The children are Orthodox, and understand the difference.  They can't wait for the 7th - because they get to go to their church, the boys serve in the altar, the kids usually participate in decorating the church....it's where they belong and feel at home.



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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2009, 07:36:11 PM »

That's beautiful Lyza!

I know what you mean about the 12 dishes, my Grandmother also prepares them for Nativity Eve.

I love it so much.
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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2009, 05:34:00 AM »

Thought I can share.  First six years of schooling (K to 5th grade) I spent in Catholic schools in Jersey City, NJ.  Jersey City is well known for its Coptic population.  So when Jan. 7th comes around, a good portion of the class in a Catholic school is absent.  5th grade, I went to another Catholic school, but not a lot of Coptic people attended it, but I didn't feel left out or anything.  I think there was this popular kid who was Russian or something and took a day off with me, so it was expected, "Ya, he's Orthodox, that's why he's absent."

So, I never really suffered as a child.  On the contrary, children try to look for any excuse to take a day off of school.  As selfish as this sounds, your children might be envied in school for doing so, and it made me feel good and prideful as a child.  I remember getting comments from my friends in pre-teen and teenage times like "I wanna be Orthodox" or "Can I be Orthodox just for Jan. 7?"

At first as a child, you start to get confused as to why there's two different Christmases.  As a little boy, your parents would say, "Santa comes twice a year, once for the Catholics and once for the Orthodox."  As I grew up, it was more like, "Well, the Catholics changed the date; it was Jan. 7th all along."  Either way, I enjoyed the time off with family.  Winter break was more a time off spent doing non-Christmas things while everyone else celebrates Christmas, like go to a restaurant (usually Chinese) or watch a movie.  On Jan. 7th, the whole family, cousins, aunts, uncles, all within the area come over to a designated house of the year.  We eat, we play, we drink, we laugh, we enjoy one another's company, and this still happens today.  With the knowledge now that I have of other OO churches celebrating Christmas on the 25th, I also take it as an opportunity to show up and listen to a Christmas liturgy of another liturgical tradition, while one of my younger cousins now keeps abandoning our traditional restaurant and movie going and travels to California to stay at the Coptic monastery there for the week off.  One time, I also went along with a Church trip to Orlando, and spent good times in Disney World among other things for the week off.

Since I don't celebrate Christmas on the 25th, there are other things I can do and we still keep the Christmas and the lights on until Jan. 19th, and we have become the envy of our neighborhood.  Grin  I'd say Jan. 7th is a good religion discussion opener.

That's my experience.  Sorry if I wrote in a random fashion in parts.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2009, 05:35:06 AM by minasoliman » Logged

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