"Faith in Alhambra" is a snapshot of the diverse range of churches in the city.
Looming over Fremont Avenue are the Byzantine gold domes of St. Steven’s Serbian Orthodox Church, where hundreds worship each Sunday from all around the Southland. Father Nicholas Ceko, a son of immigrants who fled the Communists after World War II, shared why a Serbian Orthodox cathedral was constructed in Alhambra, and why Christmas is in January.
The Serbian population of Alhambra is officially almost non-existent. How did a Serbian Orthodox cathedral end up here?
Father Ceko: Orthodox Serbs from the Balkans came to America starting in the middle of the 19th century. During World War II, waves of people came to the United States and it was at this time that the first Orthodox Church in Los Angeles, Saint Sava Parish, was no longer able to handle their growing demands. They bought the land for the new church in Alhambra in 1948.
Church membership includes over 500 families, some of them third-generation Serbian-Americans. It has broadened over the years to include other ethnicities and many converts from other faiths. Members commute from as far north as Ventura south to San Clemente.
January 7 is the calendar day your church observes Christmas instead of December 25. Why is that?
We actually do celebrate Christmas on December 25, but we use the Julian Calendar. The "New Style" Julian Calendar, popularly called the Gregorian Calendar is used not only as our civil calendar, but also by the Church in the West. For other Orthodox like the Serbian and Russian Orthodox, we still use the “Old Style” Julian Calendar.