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On the Fourth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me . . .



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. . . priests fighting in the Church of the Nativity. It got so bad the Palestinian police had to come in and break it up (and without killing any civilians — a first!). This kind of thing — Melee in the Manger? Skirmish in the Stable? — has happened before, not only in Bethlehem but also in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This happens because the various denominations have carefully delineated turf boundaries within the buildings and bump up against each other all the time. I was last there when I was 11, but if I remember correctly, the Latins run the upstairs of the Church of the Nativity, while the Armenians and Greeks split the downstairs. My brother’s late godfather, while at seminary in Jerusalem in the 30s or 40s, was seriously injured and disfigured for life in one of these skirmishes.

Of course, since they were Greek and Armenian priests, Wednesday wasn’t the fourth day of Christmas for them, but it makes a nice headline. Armenians celebrate the Nativity and Epiphany of Christ together on January 6, while Greeks mark the Nativity on December 25 — but in the Holy Land both churches still use the Julian calendar, so Greeks won’t celebrate til January 7, and Armenians January 19. (Armenians outside the Holy Land switched to the Gregorian calendar years ago, so Christmas will actually be on the 6th.)



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