By Paul Goble
The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has never been comfortable with the celebration of New Year’s, viewing that event as a way to overshadow Christmas, but this year, calls to ban New Year’s celebrations have intensified as church leaders have reacted to a film about it that they say undermines Christian family values.
Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan has denounced Irony of Fate for its portrayal in a positive way of people who are not informed by Christianity and traditional family values; and he has linked that film to the New Year’s celebration and called for the holiday to be banned outright (riafan.ru/1137670-etot-prazdnik-omerzitelen-v-rpc-predlozhili-vmeste-s-ironiei-sudby-otmenit-novyi-god).
That hierarch’s position might have been dismissed as the comments of a marginal figure, but it was picked up by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Patriarchate’s department for relations with society and of the Social Chamber of the Russian Federation as well. He said bluntly that “the Church thinks just as Metropolitan Mark does.”
“The new year’s non-culture initially was born as a counterweight to Christmas and Christianity. Up to now all that it professes is a denigration of Godliness. Distractions, wood, empty spending of time, a cult of pop ‘stars,’ – all this is alien to Christianity. And it’s anti-spiritual ‘mentality’ is particularly so,” Chaplin continues.
The archpriest says that “it is not accidental that already in the early 1980s, we young Christians refused to watch the ‘new year’s’ box or take part in this false ‘holiday.’ Real Christians do the same even today.” We have the right to declare what we think of this holliday, he insists.
And Chaplin concludes: “When real believers come to power, this ‘little holiday’ will be canceled” once and for all.
For many years, the Russian media at this time of year has made fun of Islamic objections to celebrating new year’s in January, arguing that the Faithful should follow the Islamic calendar which dates to Muhammed’s time. This year, they haven’t, perhaps because it would call even more attention to the view of Mark and Chaplin.