| 73 How is Christmas celebrated in sunny California, so far awayfromSerbia, coldandsnow?Whatdoes theYuleoak branchmean among the palms of sunny California and howdoes thedeclaration“Christ is born”reverberateon the coast of the Paci c Ocean? Speaking exclusively to us fromLos Angeles about themost joyous Christianholiday isMaksimVasiljević, Bishop of theWestern America Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who has been living in America for the last 12 years. How is Christmas preserved and celebrated in California? - The similarities with celebrations here are great, especially in areas with emigrants, the majority of whom are from Dalmatia andCentral Bosnia. TheChurch consecrates time and space for the holiday, and I think everyone feels that that’s the most important thing. Serbian immigrants have preserved their faithwith great effort since the beginning of the 19th century. Apart from the ‘badnjak’Yule branch, česnica bread and attending church, Orthodox believers on the continent of NorthAmerica have a special“shared spread” of the entire parish in the church hall after each liturgy is performed; and on Christmas Day you’ll see a loaf of česnica bread onevery table in that hall. Peopleconnect verybeautifully and strongly, continuing a“liturgy after the liturgy”. Serbs in America celebrate Easter, Christmas, Patron Saint days and the holiday of Vidovdan, but they also celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving, with a liturgy performed on that day. How much does the geographical distance and exoticnessof thearea, close tobeachesandtheocean, impact on the spirit of this holiday? - Celebrating Christmas enriches the lives of our countrymen, and the palm trees and ocean give it a special note. However, thepoint isn’t only tocelebrate this wonderful holiday in a family atmosphere, rather for followers of the Orthodox faith in the Diaspora to establish links with modern man and enable him to bear witness to true faith. The Serbian church in California is attended by Hollywood actors like Christian Bale, Stana Katic and others. The holiday represents an departure from loneliness, inertia and routine, so modernman can rediscover themeaning of celebratingthisholidayandthusovercome lonelinessandselfishness. This holiday bridges the geographical divide from the Balkans to the Paci c Ocean. Towhatextenthaveourpeoplesucceededinpreservingsometraditionalandsymbolicelements, suchas lighting the ‘Badnjak’ Yule branch in their homes? - Christmas is a call to re-examinewhetherwe really love Christ whilewemature in this kind of global culture. That daymarks the birth of God among people, while themodern“trendy Christmas”transforms him into an“object”. Christ wants to liberate us from Paliti Badnjak nema toliko smisla na toplim Havajima koliko u hladnom Čikagu ili Koloradu, ali Crkva nije radi običaja, nego su običaji radi Crkve Lighting a Yule branch doesn’t make as much sense in the heat of Hawaii as it does in the cold of Chicago or Colorado, but the church doesn’t determine customs, rather customs determine the Church Teotokos, tempera na drvetu, Vladika Maksim, 2018. Theotokos, egg-tempera on wood, by Bishop Maxim, 2018 Tekst / Words: Željka Mrđa Fotografije / Photography: George Gligich, Nenad Vukićević, Blaško Paraklis, Profimedia.rs