Ironing and baking through the calendar.


After the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, we change from red to gold altar cloths. Earlier in the week I helped to iron the gold ones that had gotten creases being in storage bins, a task that is done right there in the temple.


Three of us ironed, and draped the smoothed gold cloths over chairs. The fourth walked around the church making the exchange on icon stands and tables.

The cloths that belong in the altar itself were laid over the choir stands temporarily, where our rector could later switch them out for the red ones in the altar at his convenience, sometime before the next service.

The red ones were put away in bins, where they will stay at least until next September, if I read the rubrics correctly.



Leavetaking of Nativity was yesterday, so this icon of the Christmas feast has been removed; today was another great feast, The Circumcision of Christ. Born a Jew, our Lord was circumcised eight days after birth according to the law.


icon & basil breadIn addition to being one of the twelve great feasts of the church year, today is the day we remember St. Basil the Great, and after Liturgy this morning we gathered in the fellowship hall to eat some St. Basil bread, of which we had four loaves, including one gluten-free. The Greek word for this is Vasilopita, and many traditions have grown up around it over the centuries. I like this telling of the story linking it to St. Basil: Vasilopita.

We sang and ate the blessed bread after it had been cut in several symbolic ways, first into quarters by the sign of the cross made with the knife. Various chunks were swiftly and ceremonially removed for Christ, for the poor, and I can’t remember who all, because I was too focused on taking pictures!IMG_1452 chunk

A coin was baked into each loaf, as is the custom, so we were warned to bite our cake gently.  Our parishioner who bears the name of Basil was blessed to find the first coin in his slice.

I stood around drinking coffee, eating the sweet bread, and chatting for a good while before I came home and changed into walking clothes so that I could get out in the sunshine with friend Elsie for the better part of an hour. We timed our walk to be in the warmest part of the day, and it was almost 50° by then.

I’ve been burning a lot of wood, and the stack that was “temporarily” in my driveway for five months has been whittled down to almost nothing. Now my new utility yard is ready to receive the firewood again, but I’m not going to bother moving this little bit of old wood back there. I’ll stack the new supply of wood I’ve ordered there next week.

Tomorrow is the first day of winter that we have been forbidden to burn wood, because of the deteriorating air quality. It often happens like this: when you most want a good fire is when the inversion layer keeps the cold and the pollutants close to the earth. I’m glad I have a good furnace but it’s disturbing to hear it coming on all day and night when we don’t have a fire in the stove. Next week we are expecting the El Niño system to bring us rain, so that will clear up and warm up the air.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s has been a struggle for me, trying to accept my new life that is evolving, or that I am creating; I’ll be glad to be slightly less cold next week and to lay in some fresh fuel-wood. Since I can’t have a fire tomorrow I am thinking of baking bread, which would help to warm up the house and make it homey. Theophany is just around the corner, and for about ten days now the days have been getting longer — have you noticed? Here comes the sun!

Happy New Year to all my dear blogging friends and readers!


13 thoughts on “Ironing and baking through the calendar.

  1. Your church is very beautiful! I’m glad Basil got a coin.
    You are an excellent house mouse and I hope you do make bread to warm the home today.
    It’s very cold here. Winter.
    Sending love!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am always guessing when it’s time to change the altar cloths – I have some little ones that I made for our icon corner at home and I try to pay attention to when they are changed in the church, but I usually miss it by a couple weeks. 🙂 I really ought to find out when it’s supposed to happen. Thanks for the reminder that I can ask my priest about the rubrics. 🙂

    Blessed happy and healthy new year to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved reading of your changing of the paraments. The Basil person in your congregation was fortunate to get the coin! May your new year be filled with your courageous hearts reaching out to others, and your soul be filled with peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ironing and arranging the altar cloths looks like such a peaceful and satisfying ministry of service. Gretchen, can you recommend a good book or website that explains the whole calendar of the Orthodox church. (Book preferred. I’m on the computer too much as it is!) I’m in awe of the sheer number of details that are commemorated throughout the Orthodox year. So many things that we Protestants just skim over or forget about altogether. I’d love to read something that really takes me through all of it. I think it’s fascinating! I love reading about it on your blog.

    I miss a good wood fire and don’t enjoy the noisy furnace coming on, so I get you on that. I hope the bread baking was a pleasure and that you’ll have a fire going soon. A fresh supply of firewood sounds wonderful! 🙂


  5. I always bake when the house is cold too. I always have. I like that.
    Yes, rain. Lots of rain. Finally. I am so thankful for it.
    I am so glad to see how you are taking life and making a new one. You are so brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The last photo of the heart-shaped honeycomb is beautiful and wonderfully symbolic for you and for us as this new year begins in God’s timelessness and love. Thank you for the thoughtful posts you keep giving us. A blessed new year to you! Jules

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post for the new year! I didn’t know about vasilopita until reading this. Customs and traditions too often get lost or lessened along the way. Blessings, prayers, and good wishes for a new year–or rather, for a new day, then another new day, then another, and. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this entry, Gretchen; it engendered calmness and tranquility in me, which is much appreciated! I hope the bread making warmed your spirit as well as your home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ironing follows us wherever we go, doesn’t it? In the home and in the church. Perhaps to keep us from thinking too loftily, we are given these humble tasks at every turn. Maybe?

    Beautiful traditions and thoughts to remind us of Christ. Blessed, joyful New Year, Gretchen.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.