Ranch Reflections are articles written by LRHS students and staff who want to share their experiences, thoughts, and concerns. This is a great opportunity for Mustangs to branch out beyond traditional news stories.  This edition features one student’s holiday celebration of his Orthodox faith.

Angel Markoski – Mustangs Ahead

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – My family and I are Orthodox Christians. Over winter break, we celebrate several holidays that are not traditionally celebrated in the U.S. such as Orthodox Christmas and Badnik and Vodici.

Badnik is Christmas Eve in my religion, and it is on January 6. For decades, Badnik has been celebrated by attending a two-hour liturgy at church which is followed by starting a bonfire outside of the church.

On Badnik we eat many traditional foods. The most popular food is homemade bread with wine. Every food that people eat on this day has a meaning to it, the bread represents Jesus’ body that was Orthodox Christians believe was broken down for the sins of others and the wine represents Jesus’ blood that according to the faith frees every one of their sins that drinks it.

The celebration continues until midnight and when the clock hits 12, everyone says, “Christ is born,” “Indeed he is.”

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7. On Christmas morning, another church liturgy is attended that lasts till 12 p.m. When the liturgy is over, the tradition is to have a big fest with your family.

When I lived in Macedonia, my family, including my aunt, uncle, cousins, and other family friends, gathered at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather would oversee making the drinks and setting the table for lunch and my grandmother oversaw all the food, every dish was a traditional Macedonian food.

The holidays do not stop there. Orthodox Christians used a different calendar from todays and a lot of holidays are based on the old calendar. That’s why we celebrate something called “Old New Year.” This holiday is New Year’s in the old calendar, and it is celebrated on Jan. 13. On this holiday, a lot of people gather to celebrate the new year after Christmas.

My family and I used to go up to my grandfather’s cabin located in a forest village. Everyone would have a fun time and when midnight came, we all used to go out of the house and celebrate with other people around the village, with lots of music and food.

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Vodici is considered one of the most important holidays in Orthodox Christianity and it is celebrated on January 19. On this day, we believe that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. This day is celebrated by a longstanding tradition. A Baptist from each city blesses a cross and a body of water and then the Baptist throws the cross in the water. When the cross falls in the water, people jump in the body of water and they swim towards the cross, and whoever gets the cross is blessed.

In my hometown of Struga, the cross would be thrown in a river and hundreds of people would show up to experience this. After the ceremony, the person who catches the cross and the Baptist would celebrate by going to other houses and bless the house with holy water and the cross. I love my religion and my country for continuing to celebrate these holidays and for continuing to live these traditions.