A Child’s Greek Catholic Christmas

Memories Of Christmas 1935 at St. Mary in Monessen, PA.

Jan. 7, 1935, I was six years old. I did not have to go to school that day, although I would rather have been there since I did not want to be “different” (the peer-pressure of the day). The church, packed with people, was bright, shining clean, decorated, and breathtakingly beautiful to my young eyes. The Divine Liturgy was loudly and enthusiastically sung in Slavonic, and even the sermon (we did not know the word homily) was not in English.

A special happening was at the time of the collection. This occurred only on Christmas and Easter. Father would remove his chasuble (outermost vestment) and with great ceremony, drape it exactly so on the altar. Then he proceeded to personally take up the collection. He was followed by a curator (present day usher) who recorded in a book the names and amounts donated for those without envelopes.

After the mirovanije (anointing), we children were directed up the two sanctuary steps, through the deacon’s door and into the mysterious, for me, sacristy. Then down the back stairway to the church basement where “Santa” awaited
us. He gave each of us an orange and an animal crackertype box filled with hard candy.

Sister Elaine Kisiko at 6 years old in 1935.

An important Sunday came several weeks later. Father would report the donations given for the Christmas collection. He read every name and the amount the person had offered. (The printed Sunday bulletin was unknown). Of course this took a long time, but we were used to staying in church longer that what seems to be the present-day obligatory one hour. He even announced the children’s names. You cannot imagine how proud we were when we heard, “Evelyn Kisinko (my older sister) 25 cents. Elaine Kisinko 15 cents. Paul Kisinko (my little brother) 10 cents. Those amounts may seem ludicrous, but the economy was very different in 1935, a post-depression year. My father, a machinist in the steel mill, was the sole provider for himself, wife, three children, and his in-laws, my grandparents, who lived with us.

It was certainly a different time, but memory deems it a happy time. The years have quickly come and gone, and our Christmas celebrations have undergone many changes. But the one aspect that is constant is our witness that we are celebrating the greatest Gift of God to us, the birth of His Son, Jesus.

In the spirit of 1935, Christos
Razdajetsja! Slavite Jeho!