Merry Christmas! No, I am not daft and I haven’t lost my mind, even though I know that’s what some of you are thinking. As some of you already might know, I grew up in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania. My father was from Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the good old USA in 1939 at the age of 12. It was actually the second time he came through Ellis Island, but I’ll save that story for another day.
Although my mother was born in the States, her parents were from Yugoslavia. Needless to say, I grew up with an interesting heritage and cultural background. Which included celebrating Orthodox Christmas with my mother’s side of the family every year. Woo-hoo! A bonus Christmas. What kid wouldn’t absolutely love that? So, every January 7th, we packed in the car and drove to my grandfather’s house to celebrate his Christmas. And it was a special celebration indeed.
It was a fabulous tradition for me and my sisters, even if my Serbian Orthodox cousins got to skip school and we didn’t. Every year I would put on a campaign to skip school like my cousins did, and every year I was voted down by my mother. She said that they had to skip school so they could go to church. I offered to go to church with them, but that didn’t fly. My mother was a lovely woman, but she was a pathetic negotiator.
Today, I am back in my grandfather’s house to celebrate Orthodox Christmas once again. Of course, a lot has changed over the years, and a lot of people are gone. But, the house is still there, and so our sweet memories. I swear I can still hear their raucous laughter, the loud Slavic voices, and my grandfather belting out songs in Serbian. I’m still surrounded by my cousins and my incredible Aunt Stella, who presides over the family celebration and sits at the head of the table. And I still feel like the luckiest kid in the world, because I still get to celebrate Christmas twice a year.
And I always will.