GALLERY: Macedonians celebrate Christmas

As the festivities of Christmas and New Year's Eve begin to dwindle, the Macedonian Orthodox community prepared for round two.

The Macedonian community celebrated Christmas Day yesterday by attending mass at Wollongong's Macedonian Orthodox Church, lighting candles and praying to commemorate Christ's birth.

Very Reverend Alexandar Ivanovski read a message from the Archbishop of the church in the Republic of Macedonia.

"He wishes all humanity to respect God and follow His teaching," the Very Reverend said.

"And to be tolerant of one another, to support and help one another."

To prepare for Christmas, the faithful fasted for 40 days from meat in honour of the Virgin Mary, and to receive Holy Communion they fasted for seven days before mass, the priest said.

"They have to prepare spiritually as well," he said.

Outside the Saint Dimitrija of Solun Church in Stewart Street, hundreds of parishioners queued to enter the church, greeting each other with "Hristos se rodi" ("Chris is born") and answering with "Vistinu se rodi" ("It is true, Christ is born").

Wollongong resident and parishioner Elizabeth Cavdarovski said she had begun celebrating the night before.

"Last night there was mass, and traditionally children go from house to house, door knocking and getting treats, like lollies, bread and fruit," she said.

The mother of two said her children participated in the tradition, and would also join the family for a roast after mass yesterday.

Very Reverend Ivanovski visited many homes throughout the day to bless parishioners, especially men named Chris and women named Bozana, as it was their name day.

"Chris is a very popular name ... but it's my duty to visit as many people as I can that invited me," he said.

"We refer to Jesus as Hristos, and the equivalent name to God is Riste, so the modern equivalent is Chris."

Balgownie's Chris Lozenkovski, whose grandfather was also named Chris, said it was important to carry on with the tradition.

"If you can get the priest to come over and bless the table, he brings warm wishes to the family and good fortune for the coming year," he said.

The Church's Christmas celebrations will continue until tomorrow, which will also be St Stefan's feast day, celebrated by men and women named Stefan and Stephanie.

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