Lithuanian Independence Day

February 16

“The Council of Lithuania in its session of February 16, 1918 decided unanimously to address the governments of Russia, Germany, and other states with the following declaration:

“The Council of Lithuania, as the sole representative of the Lithuanian nation, based on the recognized right to national self-determination, and on the Vilnius Conference’s resolution of September 18-23, 1917, proclaims the restoration of the independent state of Lithuania, founded on democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital, and declares the termination of all state ties which formerly bound this State to other nations.

“The Council of Lithuania also declares that the foundation of the Lithuanian State and its relations with other countries will be finally determined by the Constituent Assembly, to be convoked as soon as possible, elected democratically by all its inhabitants.”

These short paragraphs are what the nation of Lithuania celebrates today, February 16, as its independence day. A declaration that declared an end to over a century of Russian occupation.

Lithuania was first united in the thirteenth century by the enigmatic Mindaugas. (No, he was not a Harry Potter character, that’s Mundungus.) Mindaugas was the first and last King of Lithuania. He converted to Christianity to attain the support of the Pope and the Livonian Order, but reverted back to Paganism after. He and his wife Morta were crowned King and Queen in 1253. When she died ten years later Mindaugas made the fatal mistake of taking Morta’s sister as his wife. She was already married to a former ally of Mindaugas, Daumantas. Mindaugas was used to annexing numerous lands, but Daumantas did not take the annexation of his wife so readily, and helped Mindaugas’s nephew assassinate the King along with two of the king’s sons. Never again was there crowned a king of Lithuania.

By the end of the 1300s Lithuania was the largest state in Europe. Its land included parts of what is now Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

Lithuania on steroids

One gift the Lithuanians bestowed upon Eastern Europe during the 16th century was the codification of its laws in the Three Statutes of Lithuania. The Sobornoye Ulozheniye, the first complete code of Russian law, was based in part on the Lithuanian codes.

A political bond with Poland endured in various manifestations through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries until the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eaten up piece by piece by the superpowers growing around it: Prussia, Austria, and mainly Russia.

Catherine II of Russia’s attitude was: “Polotsk and Lithuania have been taken and retaken about twenty times, and treaty was ever concluded without one side or the other claiming part or all of it, depending on circumstances.

Lithuania remained under Russian control for over a century. During World War I the Lithuanian government exploited the weakness of the Russian Empire and the animosity between Russia and Germany. A Council of Lithuania passed a series of Acts starting in late 1917 and early 1918 which repudiated Russian rule. Germany, which occupied parts of Western Russia, was happy to see pieces of the Russian Empire break away, thinking they would pick up the crumbs. However, when Germany began losing the war in 1918 their position to negotiate declined. And with the Act of Independence of February 16, 1918, Lithuania achieved independence from both Russia and Germany.

The 20 Signatories of the Act of Independence

The celebration was short lived. During World War II Lithuania was overrun by Soviet tanks on their way to Poland, followed by German tanks on their way to Russia, and again by the Soviets on their way to Berlin.

January 13, 1991, the Soviet Union, fearful of increasing nationalist sentiment in Lithuania invaded the city of Vilnius and attacked the TV tower and other buildings. Images of the attack spread throughout the world, and were influential in the eventual fall of the Soviet Union eight months later.
The short Act of Independence of 1918, with its emphasis on democratic principles, was cited by Lithuanians as the inspiration for and the basis of the rebirth of their sovereign state.

Blogs of note:
EU Newcomer Lithuania celebrates 90 years of Independence

Love in the Time of V.D. (Valentine’s Day)

February 14

Between Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays in February comes another birthday, one that has been celebrated far longer than either President, but for a man whose life is all but unknown.

The awakening of spring has always been associated with the blossoming of love. In the Roman calendar February was the last month of the year, a time of purification before the new agrarian planting season.

Lupercalia commemorated the She-wolf that suckled the babies Romulus (founder of Rome) and his brother Remus in a cave on the site of the future capital. On February 15 each year a group of priests known as the Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Luperci, would strip to their birthday suits and sacrifice a dog and goat at the cave. Then they’d put on loincloths of the goat’s skin and go about the streets of Rome smacking women on their backsides with an animal skin lash, known as a februa (from the Latin februare, meaning “to purify”) in a ritual intended to promote fertility and ease the pangs of childbirth.

Romulus, Remus, & Ma Wolf
Romulus, Remus, & Mama Wolf

The Romans celebrated another festival in mid-February: Juno Februata. On the 14th of February eligible young men and women would participate in Roman Spin-the-Bottle. Boys would draw the names of eligible girls and ‘couple up’ during the festivities, sometimes for the entire year.

Around 496 AD Pope Gelasius banned the old pagan rituals and introduced the Festival of the Purification of the Virgin on February 14, which was later moved to February 2. The Church tried to replace to earlier rituals by having boys and girls draw the names of a saint and emulate the life of that saint. For whatever reason, that zany tradition never caught on with the same vigor as the Roman one.

Some scholars say that St. Valentine’s Day was a minor feast with no connection to romance or couples up until the 14th century. It was then that writers such as Chaucer and his contemporaries began referring to it as the day that birds chose their mates.

Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer wrote “The Parliament of Fowls”—referring to birds, not the English governing body—in tribute to Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia in 1381.

”[it] was on seynt Volantynys day
When euery byrd comyth there to chese his make.”
(It was sent on Saint Valentine’s Day,
When every bird comes there to choose his mate…)

It was a common writing device for poets to link certain events with the saint whose feast was observed that day. However the Valentine Chaucer referred to was the one whose feast was celebrated on May 3, for May 3 was the date of the King’s engagement. Chaucer describes conditions common to late Spring. (Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine.)

The marriage of the royal 16 year-olds Anne and Richard was one based in love rather than politics. It ended with Anne’s death from plague 12 years later. Richard was never the same after her death, and was deposed and killed in 1400…on February 14.

Nearly a dozen ‘Valentines’ were canonized in the first centuries of the Christian Church, and to this day no one really knows which one we celebrate on February 14. (Would the Real Saint Valentine Please Stand Up)

Saint Valentine
St. Valentine

[Others say Valentine’s origin is a case of semantics. That Valentine comes from the Norman-French term galantin, meaning something like “woman-lover” in a chivalrous sense. It’s where we get the words “gallant” and “gallantry”.]

Preseren Day – Slovenia

February 8

When all the nations stand before the judgment seat and are asked to explain how they used their basic talents…the small Slovenian nation will dare without fear to present a thin book with title Prešeren’s Poems alongside the others.

— Josip Stritar

Don’t mess with the Slovenes when it comes to their national poet, France Prešeren. He gets, not one, but two days in his honor on the Slovenian calendar. Today, the anniversary of his death in 1849, is a national holiday known as Culture Day; many Slovenes celebrate his birthday as well.

Preseren's statue
Preseren's statue is the most prominent in Lubljana, though its likeness is disputed. It was sculpted fifty years after his death, and no known portrait was made of Preseren when he lived.

France Prešeren was the son of a farmer, studied law, and spent most of his life as a lawyer and civil servant. He “led no revolutions, proposed no political programs, and died of tuberculosis, impoverished and almost alone, at the age of 49.”

Yet his popularity is unrivaled. Why? It wasn’t simply because his poems came to symbolize the Slovenes and their culture. According to many, Preseren’s poetry helped to save Slovenian culture:

“To understand Preseren’s importance we must appreciate that tiny Slovenia had no history of national statehood and no possibility of achieving political independence in the mid-nineteenth century. Simultaneously, there was a real chance that the Slovenian language would disappear…Through his creation—in response to the dual threat of Germanization or Croato-Serbinization—of a body of world-class poetry in his native language, Prešeren is seen to have ensured the very existence of the Slovenian nation.”

—Andrew Baruch Wachtel, Remaining Relevant After Communism: The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe

His poetry mirrored the fortitude and resistance of the Slovenes, it represented a new form of literature and national identity for a group that had never coalesced as such. Appreciation of Preseren continued to grow through the 20th century, despite—or perhaps because of—the Yugoslavian regime of Tito, who sought to repress symbols of regional patriotism.

In the early 1990s Slovenes chose Preseren’s poem Zdravlijica (A Toast) as the young country’s national anthem:

God’s blessings on all nations
Who long and work for that bright day
When o’er earth’s habitations
No war, no strife shall hold its sway;
Who long to see
That all men free,
No more shall foes, but neighbors be…

–from “A Toast”

Unlike “A Toast,” most of Preseren’s works convey a bleak pessimism that followed the poet all his life.

The piece that put Slovenian literature on the map, and ensured Preseren’s immortality,was Preseren’s only epic poem Krst pri Savici (The Baptism by the Savica) about the clash in Slovenia between the pagans and early Christian converts.

Excerpt from The Baptism by the Savica translated by Alasdair Mackinnon read by Katrin Cartlidge

…The clash of arms has ceased
throughout the land,

Yet in your breast the storms of war still roll.

If aught of life’s dire ills I understand

The eternal worm takes yet more deadly toll,

Battens on lifeblood in its inner lair

And reawakes the harpies of despair.

illustration by Milogoj Dominko in Prešeren's poem "Baptism at Savica" (Humar Publishing, 1996)

the 1st of February belongs to Brigid…

February 1 or 2

Brigid was a Celtic goddess whose festival was celebrated on February 1st and 2nd. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, heralded the middle of Winter and anticipated the coming of Spring. It was a festival of purification. (The word February itself comes from the Latin Februus, the god of purification and the dead.)

The Catholic church has been at odds with Brigid’s legacy for most of its existence. The bishops of Ireland found the goddess’s pagan following to be too deeply embedded in local tradition to be stomped out. Even the newly-converted Irish Christians refused to stop worshipping their exalted patroness. The Church decreed, If you can’t win ’em, join ’em. Brigid became Saint Brigid.

Over the centuries two Brigids emerged. One Brigid was transformed into Mary’s “midwife” at the birth of Jesus. (The position of Jesus’s mother was taken.)

In the other the she became the daughter of a Druid father ( and in some stories of a Christian mother from Portugal kidnapped by pirates!) and was named after the Celtic goddess. She lived from 451 to 525. She was known for her generosity as a young woman, and devoted herself to God, deflecting proposal after proposal from eligible suitors. She was baptized by St. Patrick himself and became a devout nun and Abbess, eventually founding the Abbey at Kildare in the 5th century.

St. Brigid of Kildare

In the Celtic tradition the Abbey at Kildare is believed to have preceded the so-called Saint herself. It was an ancient shrine to the Goddess before Christianity ever reached the Emerald Isle. There priestesses kept alight an eternal flame at the shrine until the 1220s when a Bishop, angered by the Abbess’s ‘no men allowed’ policy and the Druidic rituals, ordered the sacred flame to be put out.

The last insult to Brigid was her expulsion from the list of Saints in the 1960s. During Vatican II she was decanonized due to insufficient proof of her existence, after volumes of creative embellishment written about the supposed nun’s life and deeds over the centuries.

Brigid is affiliated with wisdom, healing, metal-work or craftmanship, flames and fire, and childbirth, even though she was a virgin in the Christian tradition.

In The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations & Rituals Patricia Monaghan writes:

When we face the possible end of a relationship, when our bills are higher than the tiny resources we have, when we are emotionally drained by negative working conditions–it is all too easy to cling to what we have known previously…Brigid tells us otherwise…transformation is the only way to survive.

Likewise Imbolc is the transformation of winter into spring.

…the day on which you assume a new name; the day on which you pledge to make specific changes in your life. [Imbolc] could be thought of as a kind of goddess-specific New Year’s Eve.

In writing of St. Brigid, the Catholic Patroness of Ireland, (1907) Joseph Knowles notes:

St. Brigid received from her people a worship which history accords no other saint…She was the light that shone over their Island to direct the footsteps of the daughters of Erin in the paths of virtue and sanctity. In speaking of her they discarded the prefix Saint, and called her, in homely, yet reverent fashion, “Mo Brighe”–or “My Bride.

Note how Knowles reverses the carry-over from Brigid’s pre-Christian goddesship.

In the British Isles Brigid’s Feast and Imbolc merged with Candlemas. Both involves the ancient druidic lighting ceremony and purification rites, originally meant to honor Brigid. Some calendars list February 1 as Imbolc, others February 2. Most likely the celebration began on the evening of February 1 and concluded the following day, as was the tradition of the time.

On Brigid’s Day, Selena Fox, author of Lore and Riutals recommends:

“Do a self purification rite with Elemental tools–

cleanse your body with salt (Earth)

your thoughts with incense (Air)

your will with a candle flame (Fire)

your emotions with water (Water)

and your spiritual body with a healing crystal (Spirit)

Bless candles that you will be using for rituals throughout the year.

Invoke Brigid for creative inspiration.

Take a Nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring.”

One ritual of Brigid’s Day was to plant or hang straw cross from the previous year’s harvest around the outside of the house and in the rafters in honor of the goddess of flame, to protect the house from fire. “An odd gesture,” writes Patricia Monaghan, “for a collection of old straw ornaments in the attic seems to encourage, rather than prevent, house fires.

Brigid and her Cross

(Brigid’s Cross)

On Imbolc 1993 the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland relit the Kildare flame.

Brigid resources:

Brigid: the Goddess Who Wouldn’t Die

Brigid: the Survival of a Goddess

St. Brigid

Brigit or St. Brigid?

Brigid of the Celts

Brigit the Exalted One


Brigid’s Day Celebration

Brigid’s Day Foods

Imbolic Customs and Lore

Ukrainian Reunion: a holiday not forgotten

It was on January 22 in 1919 that the two republics making up what is now Ukraine signed the Zluky Act that would merge the two into one, thus uniting the Ukrainian people.

The two republics were the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, and the triumphant ceremony took place at St. Sophia Square in Kiev (below).

Signing of the Zluky Act, Jan. 22, 1919

It is a rare holiday in Ukraine in that it does not mark an occasion of sadness, defeat, or bloodshed.

Unfortunately this newfound unity of independence was short lived.

That same year Bolsheviks gained control of the country and declared Ukraine a part of the Federation of Soviet Republics. Thousands of Ukrainians died in the fighting, but this is nothing to the numbers who would perish over a decade later when the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin enforced an unprecedented, massive famine throughout Ukraine killing millions.

On January 22,1990 the Ukrainians celebrated their Reunion Day publicly and proudly for the first time, creating a 300,000 person human chain that stretched from Kiev to Lviv. This show of solidarity hastened the downfall of Soviet influence over Ukraine, which declared its independence in 1991.

“My nation has proved that Ukraine can never be deprived of freedom. It is no longer possible to divide the people into westerners and easterners.”

— announcement on the celebration of the Reunion Day of Ukraine, 2007, decreed by President Viktor Yushchenko

Ukrainian Flag

The Day Ukraine United
Den Sobornosti, or Unity Day
The Ukrainian National Revolution: 1917-1921
належить 22 січня 1919

Sunday Bloody Sunday

January 22

“We, workers and inhabitants of the city of St. Petersburg, members of various sosloviia, our wives, children, and helpless aged parents, have come to you, Sovereign, to seek justice and protection…”

Thus began a petition to Nicholas II, Czar of Russia, protesting the working and living conditions in St. Petersburg.

It didn’t work.

The peaceful protest was led by a Russian Orthodox priest named Father George Gapon, a “simple-hearted priest, with a rather childlike faith in God and Tsar,” according to Henry Woodd Nevison (The Dawn in Russia, 1906)

A massive December strike at 174 factories, including the electricity plant, had paralyzed the city. Gapon led approximately 15,000 workers and their families to the Tsar’s Winter Palace with their list of grievances.

According to Nevinson, “Father Gapon organized a dutiful appeal of the Russian workmen to the tender-hearted autocrat whose benevolence was only thwarted by evil counsellors and his ignorance of the truth.”

Father Gapon was the chief scribe of the petition to the Czar. It asked for an 8-hour work day, freedom of assembly to unionize, improved working conditions, medical aid, higher wages for women, freedom of speech, press and religion, and an end to the Japanese war.

The petition ended:

“If you do not respond to our prayer, then we shall die here, on this square, in front of your palace. We have nowhere else to go and no reason to. There are only two roads for us, one to freedom and happiness, the other to the grave. Let our lives be sacrificed for suffering Russia. We do not regret that sacrifice, we embrace it eagerly.”

Despite this claim, the workers and their families did not seem so willing to embrace their fate after 200 of their number had been slaughtered via bayonet and bullet by the Czar’s guards as they approached the palace. (Nevinson claims 1500 dead. The government’s official count was 100.) Hundreds more were injured.

Depiction of Bloody Sunday
Depiction of Bloody Sunday

The Czar didn’t get the petition.

Having been warned of the Sunday march Nicholas had skipped town.

Word circulated about the country, and the numbers of the dead increased with each telling. In Moscow and other cities angry workers rioted, demonstrations turned violent, and thus began the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Father Gapon was not killed in the massacre, though many  around him were. He sneaked out of the country, making his way to Western capitals such as Paris, London and Geneva, to garner international support for the cause.

Gapon was announced as a hero by both Leon Trotsky and the New York Times

Strangely enough, word leaked that Gapon was not only a friend of labor, but also a double agent working for the Okhrana, the Czar’s secret police. The Okhrana clandestinely created or infiltrated union assemblies in order to snuff out the agitators and arrest them.

Gapon’s intentions before the massacre, whether he had any idea of the outcome, will never be know for sure. Nor will we know if, horrified by the events of Bloody Sunday, Gapon’s newfound anger toward the Czar was sincere. It may well have been.

What is known is that soon after his return to Russia, his dead body was found with a rope around his neck in an empty cottage outside the village of Ozerki, Finland.

And an unsigned letter published in a St. Petersburg newspaper read:

George Gapon had been tried by a workmen’s secret tribunal and had been found guilty of having acted as an agent provocateur, of having squandered the money of the workmen, and of having defiled the honor and memory of the comrades who fell on the “Red Sunday.” In consequence of these acts, of which he was said to have made a full confession to the tribunal, he was condemned to death, and the sentence had been duly carried out.

(The Fall of the Russian Empire, Edmund Walsh)

Some say Bloody Sunday is still going on.

The Russian Revolution: through the Eyes of a Factory Worker
Russian Police Kill Four Militants in Chechen Capital<
Russia Police Block Anti-Putin March, Detain Leaders

[Originally published January 2008]

Reunion Day – Ukraine

January 22

Reunion Day is a rare holiday in Ukraine in that it marks neither tragedy nor defeat nor bloodshed.

On this day in 1919, West Ukraine joined Greater Ukraine. The two republics signed the Act Zluky to form an independent united Ukraine. The triumphant ceremony took place at St. Sophia Square in Kiev.

Signing of the Act Zluky on January 22, 1919
Signing of the Act Zluky on January 22, 1919

The joy was short lived.

Later that year Bolsheviks gained control of the country and declared Ukraine a part of the Federation of Soviet Republics. Thousands of Ukrainians died in the fighting.

But that was nothing compared to the number of those who would perish during the horrifying Holomodor.

The Holomodor, literally “plague of famine,” was one of the most gruesome chapters in European history.

The Five-Year Plan

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin implemented the Soviet Union’s first Five-Year Plan in 1928 to boost national productivity. Nationalization appeared to work in the industrial sector as millions of workers flocked to urban areas to work. Agricultural was another matter.

Stalin failed to foresee (or simply didn’t care about) the demoralizing effect of collectivization on small peasant-owned farms, and he underestimated farmers’ attachment to the land. Collectivization resulted in lower yields and in some cases rebellion. Due to low yields, the Soviet government punished the farm workers by seizing the crops they reaped in order to feed the cities and other parts of the Union. Nowhere was this practice more brutal and devastating than in Ukraine.

The Holomodor

Blaming Ukraine for the failure of the plan, Stalin attempted to force the republic into submission by instituting the world’s most vicious man-made famine.

“When the snow melted true starvation began. People had swollen faces and legs and stomachs. They could not contain their urine…And now they ate anything at all. They caught mice, rats, sparrows, ants, earthworms. They ground up bones into flour, and did the same thing with leather and shoe soles; they cut up old skins and furs to make noodles of a kind and they cooked glue. And when the grass came up, they began to dig up the roots and ate the leaves and the buds, they used everything there was; dandelions, and burdocks and bluebells and willowroot, and sedums and nettles…”

— Vasily Grossman

It’s hard to imagine a death more cruel than slow murder by starvation. And to watch powerlessly as one’s village, family, and children wither up over the course of several months or a year.

Between 1931 and 1932 the Holomodor killed an estimated 7 million Ukrainians.

The famines of the Ukraine led to mass emigration to other parts of the globe, notably Canada and the United States.

After World War II, the Soviet Union consistently denied the extent of the Ukrainian Genocide.

Ukrainian Independence

On January 22,1990, still under Soviet power, Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its short-lived 1919 independence publicly and proudly for the first time. On that day a human chain of 300,000 people stretched from Kiev to Lviv.

The show of solidarity reinvigorated Ukrainian nationalism. Ukraine declared its independence in 1991.

To this day Russia has not recognized the Ukrainian Genocide. So when Russia and the Ukraine battle over gas lines, it’s about more than gas.

“There were blockades along all the highways, where militia, NKVD men, troops were stationed; the starving people were not to be allowed into the cities. Guards surrounded all the railroad stations. There were guards at even the tiniest of whistle stops. No bread for you, breadwinners!

Death from starvation mowed down the village. First the children, then the old people, then those of middle age. At first they dug graves and buried them, and then as things got worse they stopped. Dead people lay there in the yards, and in the end they remained in their huts. Things fell silent. The whole village died. Who died last I do not know…

Before they had completely lost their strength, the peasants went on foot across country to the railroad. Not to the stations where the guards kept them away, but to the tracks. And when the Kyiv-Odesa express came past, they would just kneel there and cry: “Bread, bread!” They would lift up their horrible starving children for people to see. And sometimes people would throw them pieces of bread and other scraps. The train would thunder on past, and the dust would settle down, and the whole village would be there crawling along the tracks, looking for crusts. But an order was issued that whenever trains were travelling through the famine provinces the guards were to shut the windows and pull down the curtains.

Vasily Grossman, Forever Flowing

Memoirs of the Ukrainian Genocide

Happy (Old) New Year!

January 14

Happy New Year!

It’s January 1 in the Orthodox Calendar, observed by Orthodox Churches in Russia, Macedonia, Serbia, and many of the former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, and the one that’s all consonants. (Kryrrrgyztyrgystan)

So is Russia two weeks behind the times? Do they feel the need to have the last word on New Year’s Eve parties? Or does being torn between two New Year’s dates simply give them the chance to party for two full weeks?…(which the Russian winter could definitely use.)

Russian New Year

The story goes that up until the late tenth century, much of Russia and Byzantium celebrated the New Year during the spring equinox. That changed in 988 AD when Basil the “Bulgar-slayer” Porphyrogenitus* introduced the Byzantine Calendar to the Eastern Roman Empire.

Basil II
Basil II

The Byzantine Calendar was like the Julian Calendar except it began on September 1, and its “Year One” was 5509 BC—the year historians calculated as the creation of the world (Anno Mundi) according to genealogies of the Bible, from Adam to Jesus.

It took roughly four centuries for the “September 1st” New Year to make its way into the heart of Russia. And just when the Russians were getting used to that, Peter the Great switched to the Julian Calendar, moving New Year’s to January 1 in 1700 AD.

It was only a matter of 50 years until all of Protestant Europe stopped using the Julian Calendar altogether, in favor of the Catholic Europe’s Gregorian Calendar, leaving Russia and the Orthodox Church out in the cold.

So for the next two-hundred years, even though Russia celebrated New Year’s on January 1st according to their calendar, their entire calendar was about 11-13 days behind the rest of the West. (Which is why the Russian October Revolution took place in November.)

It wasn’t until 1918 that Lenin finally moved Russia to the Gregorian calendar.

But the Soviet Union couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. During the 1930s they declared war on the number 7, dividing months into five six-day weeks. Fortunately, this decade-long practical joke on the Russian people ended in June 1940.

Soviet Calendar of 1933
Soviet Calendar of 1933

These days, when it comes to the Old Calendar vs. the New Calendar, the Russians have tossed aside their austere ways and say, “Why choose? Have both!”

Most New Year celebrations happen on December 31st, but the holiday season continues until January 14. It’s a day of nostalgia, called Old New Year, a more sedate version of New New Year, often spent with family and watching the 1975 classic “Irony of Fate”, the Russian “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

"Irony of Fate" poster
"Irony of Fate" poster

Julian Day

Today we also celebrate day 2,454,846 in the Julian Day system—the number of days that have passed since noon, Greenwich Mean Time, January 1, 4713 BC. The Julian Day system was developed by Joseph Scalizer in 1582, and is used mainly by astronomers and people with way too much time on their hands.

*Basil’s title Porphyrogenitus means “born in the purple”. The title was bestowed at birth upon children who were (1) born to a reigning Emperor and Empress of the Byzantine Empire, and (2) born in the free-standing Porphyry (purple) Chamber in the Great Palace of Constantinople. (That’s why there’s less Porphygenituses than Smiths.)

Russian New Year

Happy Old New Year

Russian Orthodox Calendar