06 January 2012

Христос раждається! Christos Raždajetsja! Christ is Born!

According to the Julian Calendar, today is Christmas Eve.  Among the customs Rusyns brought with them to this country were Viflejemčiki or Jasličkári, traditional Rusyn Bethlehem singers, who carried a small replica of a church with them.  Their visits to homes during the Christmas season began with the singing of  Rozhdestvo Tvoje, the tropar for the Birth of Christ. 

Traditionally the Jaslichkary or shepherds, garbed in white long white garments with colorful ribbons across their chests and tall stove pipe hats, presented a short play about the Nativity and sang carols.  Their solemnity was in sharp contrast to the accompanying kubi who wore old clothes and sheepskin masks and carried wooden hatchets.  They chased children, threatening to put the naughty ones in the large burlap bags they slung over their shoulders.  The likelihood of such a happening was diminished as the bag filled with food and drink from the households.

The singing of  Mnohaja Blahaja L'ita (Many Blessed Years) concluded the visit.

The picture from SS. Peter and Paul Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Church in Central City, Pennsylvania is probably from the late 1940s.  The Jaslichkary in the back row are John “Herbie” Pribish, Steve Evano, Ed Fetsko and Mike Strongosky.  The kubi are John Muha and one of the Smolen brothers.

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