During the summer of 2017, I finally decided after much research that I was ready to write my book. I started off at the Liturgical New Year (September 1) and got to St. Euphrosynos (September 11) before losing steam. This is the introduction I wrote which does a very good job of explaining what I am doing here:
My family and I were received into the Orthodox Church after a two year rollercoaster exploration process in the Fall of 2013. One of the things that held us back in our explorations was feeling lost.
Everything was so unfamiliar, a vast expanse of information and practice that seemed unattainable in many ways. It seemed like we would never understand the way the services were put together and why. There would also be all these “tiny t” traditions that came up and baffled us. Show up to church on Transfiguration and everyone wants to know where your grapes and plums are to be blessed by Father. Huh? I had no idea!
On top of that, unique to Orthodoxy in America, we have overlapping jurisdictions and differing cultural practices for various feast days. How many times have I heard a Slav and Greek argue about what is actually traditional for a certain saint or event? Or heard certain traditions dismissed outright because they are not part of the tradition of a particular culture: “We don’t do Vassilopita. We’re not Greek.”
As time went on, I loved finding out about many of the traditions. I found it gave rhythm to our lives and really made the faith more tangible for my family. We shared special moments making candles for Candlemas, dressing in white and “processing” (by car) to Grandma and Grandpa’s to deliver Lucia buns and hot cocoa, surprised faces on St. Nicholas Day with stuffed stockings and chocolate coins in shoes after Liturgy, sharing the story of St. Helen as we were harvesting fresh basil from our garden on Cross days, walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store picking our favorites to stuff our Pascha basket with on Holy Saturday.
One of the things I’m glad I finally figured out is that you don’t have to know it all or have it all down in Orthodoxy. Many of the things in this book are known as “tiny t” traditions for a reason, they are not at all essential to the Faith. When we were received into the church we were part of a small (three family) mission parish, so many Liturgical practices and services were not possible to participate in. Some years I have gone all out with making several rounds of attempts figuring out the perfect gluten-free (we are *that* food allergy family), vegan Lucia bun recipe, other years St. Lucia Day has fallen right smack dab in the middle of my ballerina daughter’s Nutcracker season and we’ve done nothing.
For the most part Christian faith in America is not at all Liturgical aside from Christmas
and Easter. So many practices have been lost into obscurity and cast off as irrelevant. Prior to Orthodoxy and motherhood, I was a journalist. I dusted off those skills to track down more and more information. This book is the fruition of learning things as we went, asking lots of questions, visiting parishes in multiple jurisdictions, and researching both on the Internet and in a few out-of-print titles that covered certain holidays (“holy days”) from a historical perspective. As far as I could tell, nothing like this book existed anywhere else in a coherent form. It’s the book I wish I’d had when we converted and I found myself a sleuth going down rabbit trails of information to try and figure it all out. I hope it helps you too!