Orthodox Church celebrates Russian Christmas

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For Alexander Maminev, it must have been a Christmas unlike any in his life. The interior of the Church was mildly stuffy, the service was in a sing-song tongue – three, to be precise; Syriac, Malayalam and a smattering of English for the benefit of the foreigners – that he barely understood, and not even a trace of snow to be found outside. But the genial-looking Russian from Ulyanovsk, Siberia, appeared impressed.

�‘’It was only the other day that I got to know that the Orthodox church was available in India. I knew there were Protestant and Catholic churches,’’ he said.

�Maminev, attached to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), was among some 40 Russians who attended a unique Christmas celebration at the Mar Baselios Mar Gregorios Malankara Orthodox Church, Sreekariyam, on Saturday. The Russian Christmas falls on January 7 and the Honorary Russian Consulate here joined the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church to organise special prayers for Russian nationals at KKNPP and their compatriots in Thiruvananthapuram district.

�‘’Everything was great. In future also, we hope to come to the Church, on special occasions like Easter, for prayers. We can’t come every day because of the distance,’’ Maminev said.

�Young Antony Smirnov from Ryazan said he missed his parents who celebrated Christmas back home, but described the Indian Christmas a pleasant experience. ‘’This is not the first time I’m celebrating Christmas away from home. Before coming here, I lived three years in Panama,’’ he said.

�The past one month, the lanky youth has been working as translator at a private resort at Poovar. ‘’Back home, Christmas is a national holiday. We come out to the streets. There are games and social activities,’’ he said.

�Inside the 25-year-old Church, a tiny crib was set up in a corner. At the far end, the ‘Madbaha’ gleamed in gold and red and above it was a fresco of a benevolent-looking Christ descending from the clouds.

�Church vicar Fr George Varghese led the service. ‘’We had to arrange it at such a short notice. We couldn’t even inform all our churches,’’ he said.

�Honorary Russian Consul Ratheesh C Nair said that the consulate was planning to hold more elaborate celebrations from next year onwards.