January 3, 2012
Protodeacon Andrei Kurayev, a professor at the Moscow Spiritual Academy, believes Orthodox Christmas should be celebrated at the same time as the New Year, on January 1.
"I hope our church will have the courage to make a radical decision to join Christmas and the New Year into one holiday and mark both holidays on January 1," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.
Fr. Andrei believes any other Christmas date leads to questions we can't answer. "If we have Anno Domini, why is it not calculated from the birth of Christ? If the big calendar, i.e., A.D., begins from the birth of Christ, why is the small calendar, the days inside the year, calculated from some other point? It's not logical," Kurayev said.
"For this reason, if we have to change our calendar at some time, I think it's better not to move it to December 25, before the New Year. What's the difference, one week before the New Year, one week after the New Year. It's a little strange," he said.
Fr. Andrei admitted that people really loved the New Year holidays in the USSR and they love it in Russia because "it was the least politicized holiday in the Soviet Union." "That is, unlike May 1, March 8, and November 7, it was not an ideological holiday, it was a family holiday with some old Christmas aftertaste. Now all people's celebration energy goes to that [New Year celebrations] and very little energy is left for Christmas," he said.
Kurayev said he does not regret that much because "for religious people, Christmas will always stay a holiday and there is no point to force it on everyone."
Kurayev said that a new tradition of "church New Year celebrations" is beginning, at least in Moscow.
"You know why that is? Not all of us are 17 years old. This New Year night becomes a difficult thing over time. Sociologists say that the most suicides among old people are committed this night, when people are alone, hence no one comes to congratulate them, when no one calls. Heavy thoughts. You can't go to sleep because of the noise. We are a little tired of 'Irony of Fate,' as much as we love it, or olivier salad. We are no longer young enough to go to the Red Square, Vorobyovy Mountains, or see the New Year in the metro, like we did when we were students," Fr. Andrei said.
"That led to proposals to pray that night, i.e., a night church service, like Easter services," Kurayev said. After the service, the priest could bring out a box of champagne [which Kurayev said could be allowed in small quantities], some fasting pie, etc. People could have all that food in church and go home to sleep. It's a totally different experience. You go around the dead, vomit- and gunpowder-smeared Moscow early in the morning. And we prayed for that Moscow. And it's good that you feel some sobriety," the Protodeacon said.
"God will have enough wonders for New Year and for Christmas," Fr. Andrei said.