Candles and feta cheese: Greek monastery nuns 'working around the clock' prepping for Christmas
Christmas preparations are both spiritual and material, say the nuns at a monastery in Lachute, Que.
Tucked away in the Laurentians near Lachute, Que., 25 women are frantically working — painting artwork, making candles and producing feta cheese, all by hand.
It is as busy as Santa's workshop, except the 25 women aren't Santa's elves — they're Greek Orthodox nuns.
They live in the province's only Greek Orthodox monastery, Virgin Mary the Consolatory, and have been getting ready for Christmas for weeks.
"The purpose of the nativity is for Christ to be born in our hearts. So the preparations have to be preparing the heart," says Sister Macrina.
Other preparations go even further back: since Nov. 15, the sisters have been fasting by abstaining from food such as eggs and milk.
The nuns, some of whom are from Montreal while others from as far away as Lebanon, also bake five loaves of sweet-tasting bread, which they offer to the church.
Take a trip inside the Greek monastery
However, not all the celebrations are purely religious. The monastery grounds span 235 acres and the nuns have buildings for making cheese, devotional candles and religious artwork.
Sister Theodora says the nuns have been "working around the clock" getting ready for Christmas.
At the cheese factory, the nuns are making a special feta cheese where they spice the curds with special Christmas flavours.
In the candle shop, special Christmas candles made entirely out of beeswax are produced by hand.
"We try to offer to God whatever is most purist," says Macrina.
In the workshop, the nuns have been hand-panting Byzantine style icons. Sister Theodora says the icons are to "transport the person's mind and heart to Christ."
Sister Theophano says the preparations keep everyone busy.
"It is a stressful time of year because there are a lot of preparations and, of course, very limited time to do them, but the joy of the nativity coming dissipates everything and brings joy into our hearts."