A ceremony called “starring” takes place following Russian Christmas on January 7. This event happens in Anchorage, in the Y-K Delta, in Southeast and Kodiak and along the Aleutian Chain. This custom, originally from the Ukraine, is said to represent the journey of the Three Wise Men, according to archive materials.
As many of us are packing away our Christmas trees and wreaths, Orthodox Christianity is celebrating a Russian Christmas January 7, according to the Julian calendar. Those who choose December 25 as their Christmas date are following the Gregorian calendar. (See link below for the history behind each calendar.)
On Hometown Alaska on January 6, we will learn the many ways Alaskans celebrate January 7 with starring ceremonies and religious carols. This is a very layered event, as Very Rev. Michael Oleksa, a local Orthodox priest, will explain. While the tradition hearkens back to Ukraine, there are variations. Oleksa says only Alaskans and western Ukrainians spin their stars in similar fashion; many other Orthodox starring events use stationary stars.
The stars are big and elaborately decorated, and spin fast and beautifully (see the You Tube clips below for a taste of the ceremony).
Rural Alaskans in the western regions of the state have customized starring by combining it with centuries-old Yupik traditions, including memorializing those who have died in the past year, and using this quiet time of the year—free of the demands of subsistence hunting and fishing—for important opportunities to socialize and feast, including village-to-village visits.
On Hometown Alaska, we’ll explore the many regional differences in starring ceremonies that will take place the day after today’s show, from the Aleutians to Kodiak to the Y-K Delta; events are also planned in Anchorage.
If you have family who participate in Orthodox starring, share their story with us during Hometown Alaska. If you have questions about starring, we’ll have one of Alaska’s cultural and Orthodox Christian experts on the show with us. We have also invited rural residents from Kwethluk and Napaskiak to call in and share details of their upcoming starring events.
HOST: Kathleen McCoy
- Very Rev. Michael Oleksa, Orthodox Christian priest, cultural expert
- Call-in guest: Father Elia Larson, Bethel and Napaskiak
- Our listeners and callers
- Russian Orthodox Starring Ceremony (Aleutians, 1935-1946, 2:45 min archive footage on You Tube)
- Orthodox Christmas tradition burns brightly in Alaska (Chris Thompson, Alaska Dispatch News, 1-9-2015)
- Three flavors of Orthodox Christianity in Anchorage (Chris Thompson, Alaska Dispatch News, 8-15-2014)
- Russian Orthodox Christmas: starring, Kodiak Island (gwkodiak, 1:21 min video, 9-5-2015)
- Difference between Gregorian and Julian calendars (vpcalendar.net)
- Orthodox Christmas melds Yup’ik and religious traditions, Alaska Dispatch News, Jan. 8, 2015
- Eskimo Essays: Yup’ik Lives and How We See Them, Anne Fienup-Riordan (Google Books)
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LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 6, 2016. 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, January 6, 16, 2016 – 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. (Alaska time)