19 January 2013


‘Twas the visit of St. Nicholas and all through the hall,
Adults and children were chatting and having a ball.
The night before the kids were restless in their beds
While visions of St. Nicholas danced in their heads.

That day the C-RS board back and forth did zap,
Definitely not time to take a long winter nap.
When from the stage there arose such a clatter,
Everyone turned to see what was the matter.
Away to their chairs they flew like a flash,
It was the beginning of the St. Nicholas bash.

“Quiet, Please” no one had to even mention
As the big TV got everyone’s attention.
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
Not a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer
But a young boy so helpful and quick,
We knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

  Fr. John Lucas takes on the role of St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas appeared with words of wisdom for all,
To love one another, for righteousness stand tall,
Help your neighbor, comfort the sick and dying,
Work for peace and justice--and no lying.

St. Nicholas hands out goodies to young and old alike.

The revered saint came bearing gifts for all,
Icons, candy and gold coins for big and small.
To Madame President though, he gave nuggets of coal,
For often telling of her sister in the coal-receiving role.

Madame President with her bag of coal.

As St. Nicholas blessed the group and gathered his things,

The Hymn to St. Nicholas the attendees began to sing: 

O who loves Nicholas the Saintly,                           O kto kto Nikolaja l'ubit,

O who serves Nicholas the Saintly,                         O kto kto Nikolaju sluzit,

Him will Nicholas receive,                                        Tomy svjatyj Nikolaj

And give help in time of need.                                 Na vsjakij cas pomohaj,

Holy Father, Nicholas.                                               Nikolaj, Nikolaj!

O who dwells in God’s holy mansions,                   O kto, kto zivet v jeho dvori

Is our help on the land and oceans.                       Pomoscnik na zemli i mori,   

He will guard us from all ills,                                    Izmet jeho ot napasti,

Keep us pure and free from sins,                           Ne dast' jemu v hrichi vpasti!

Holy Father, Nicholas.                                             Nikolau, Nikolaj!

St. Nicholas with Liliana, Anna, Avery, Milly and Annabelle.

Then there was one more trip to the refreshment table.   
That Rusyns are really great bakers is definitely no fable! 

Adults talked of shoes left by the door on St. Nick Eve, 
And the morning excitement of finding what he did leave.    
Some candy, maybe a handful of nuts or a popcorn ball,
Definitely not like the today's kids' gigantic haul.
All agreed only one other thing that made them sadder, 
Many people now think St. Nicholas shouldn't  matter. 

With smiles on their face and warmth in their heart,
The children and the adults began to depart.

You could hear them exclaim as they walked out the door,
“Thank you, thank you for sharing the St. Nicholas lore.”

                                       Plagiarized for the umpteenth time by Charlotte Pribish Conjelko  January 2013
Everyone--young and more mature, too--enjoyed the day learning about and meeting St. Nicholas, singing his hymn and checking out all the goodies on the refreshment table.  When asked if she liked visiting with St. Nicholas, six-year-old Anna enthusiastically replied, "I liked it.  I really, really liked him.  And the movie too."

Her reply to what did you learn from him: "You have to be good because St. Nicholas is watching. You should always want what you get.  It's always better to give than to receive."  

And it wasn't just the kids who were happy to meet the patron saint of children!  The adults cheerfully came forward to meet him and delightedly accepted his gifts.  Then over refreshments shared their childhood stories of St. Nicholas Day.  One thing about Rusyns is they like to get together and share stories about growing up Rusyn.  And the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carptho-Rusyn Society gatherings are a perfect place to share those memories with others who know just what you're talking about and to give you the nudge you need to start reviving some of those customs.

Of course, we couldn't have done it with out Fr. John Lucas, pastor of St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago and treasurer of our Lake Michigan Chapter.  He was perfect as St. Nicholas with his own curly beard and vestments that he created himself.  His presentation was tailored to both children and adults and you could tell the children just loved him as they hung on to his every word--and on to his vestments when they joined him on stage.  Many thanks and many years to you, Fr. John!

Obviously he also hangs onto people's words to.  When we were planning the event, I mentioned that my sister Diana got coal one year because she had been sassy to our mother's two younger sisters right before Christmas.  While our brother John and I had gifts under our grandfather's tree, there was only a bag of coal for my sister. Boy, did the tears flow!  And the apologies!  Eventually some nicely wrapped gifts were found with her name on them.  The incident has become a handy legend to warn unruly children in the extended family when Christmas draws near.  Hence, my bag of coal for tattling on my sister.
The Lake Michigan Chapter Board wishes to thank everyone who came to learn more about St. Nicholas and to pay him homage as well as to St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in Whiting, Indiana and its pastor Rev. Fr. Steven Muth for allowing us to use their facilities.  Our chapter greatly appreciates being able to hold its gatherings in Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches so that attendees can see the richness of our heritage in the various  styles of church architecture and iconography--and, of course, to meet other Rusnaky in order to preserve that heritage. 

Our thanks also goes to those who have supported our chapter for the past three years by attending our events, telling others about us, feeding our donation basket, donating refreshments, suggesting potential presentations and paying dues to become official members of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society. C-RS relies upon your dues to publish The New Rusyn Times, maintain the Cultural Center in Munhall, Pennsylvania and keep the organization running. I hope you'll be joining the ranks of proud Rusyns soon.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at: lakemichiganrusyns@gmail.com.

And, last but not least, I apologize to Clement Clarke Moore for once again mangling his immortal "A Visit from St. Nicholas".  And I promise to continue doing it to keep my brain challenged (Right now it's really challenged by this perfect draft that I just finished typing which keeps going askew when I post it on the blog.  Definitely has to be those gremlins out there in the ether that we learned about in Latin class messing with it.), my audience amused and my sister wondering if I'll ever grow up.

Have a Blessed, Prosperous, and a bit-belated Happy Rusyn New Year,
Charlotte Pribish Conjelko
Carpatho-Rusyn Society
Lake Michigan Chapter 

PS:  Mark your calendar for Saturday, April 20.  Byzantine Catholic priest and iconographer Fr. Thomas Loya will tell us how much more is required for writing an icon than paint, brushes and canvas.  We will meet at his church, Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois.  Watch for details on this blog in late March.