For the past ten years we were in a Greek parish and so dropped into their way of doing things. Greek priests slosh the Jordan water around with a fistful of basil and very nice it smells too. Russians use either a little bundle of birch twigs or a big pastry brush called a krupilla. The priest brings it with him. Except when he forgets.
A house blessing is a white table cloth kind of occasion, but we don’t have any white tablecloths, for the very sound reason that we are messy eaters. I have done the best I can with one of my late mother’s old-fashioned glass cloths. I know it would have emerged from her washtub a lot whiter than it has from mine but she has bleached and starched her last. The torch, or at least the yellowing glass cloth, has passed.
Then there’s the question of refreshments. Our Greeks did house blessings in the evening, turned up usually no later than two hours after the agreed time and definitely expected dinner. Russians we have known, no cissies at partying, nevertheless had lower expectations. A glass of iced vodka and a couple of pickles, or just a cup of tea and a slice of cake. But I hear trends are changing. Priests are becoming watchful of their expanding waistlines, lest they finish the house blessing season needing to shop in the vestment department of Mister High’n Wide.
So are we ready? Well… I just bought a rather sad looking bunch of basil from the supermarket, plus soup, plus fruit cake. Now all that remains is to polish a candlestick and wipe away weeks’ worth of cobwebs, dustballs and assorted mid-winter crud. Bless this house, Lord. And the slattern who rarely mops into the corners.