So, tomorrow’s my nameday. But I wouldn’t rush out and pick out my gift just yet. Because tomorrow is also, according to some, the beginning of the end of the world. So you probably won’t live to see a thank you note.
If you don’t know what a nameday is, it’s the day the saint you’re named after is celebrated, and mine is a really big deal. May 21st is the feast day of Saints Eleni (or Helen) and Constantinos (or Constantine), and since roughly half of all Greek people are named either Eleni (if they’re women) or Constantine (if they’re men, and maybe Constantina if women), it’s no joke. (My statistic might be slightly off there, but really, it’s a large percentage–when I lived in Greece in 2002, one radio station spent the entire day playing songs that contained either the name Eleni or Constantine in them.)
Constantine was the Byzantine Emperor who saw a flaming cross in the sky while fighting away on the battlefield and converted to Christianity, giving us the Holy Roman Empire. (The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire: discuss.) His mama, Eleni, found the True Cross on which Jesus had been crucified. It seems like it was a pretty big one, because I’ve seen splinters from that cross in churches around the world.
Anywho, I’ve had many an exciting nameday, probably the most exciting being that one in 2002 when I headed to a village outside of Thessaloniki to watch a sect known as the Anastenarides walk on hot coals carrying an icon of Sts. Eleni and Constantine above their heads. Good times.
But this year could be the most dramatic nameday of them all, because, according to doomsday preacher Harold Camping, this Saturday is Judgment Day, which he also calls the Rapture (but not after the awesome Blondie song, Rapture; I suspect there’s not much of a fun soundtrack for Saturday). The way Camping sees it, True Believers like himself will be assumed to heaven and the rest of us will start spiraling through the end times, five months of natural disasters and general ickyness which will end 7000 years to the day after Noah’s flood.
Now, I love me some Noah. In the guest room in our apartment, I have two adorable ceramic arks full of a worried-looking Noah and two animals of every kind: birds, lions, and giraffes (one giraffe lost his head in the trip back from Nicaragua, where I purchased these gems, but a little Krazy Glue fixed him right up).
But I don’t love this Rapture scenario for a couple of reasons. Number one, as someone who is seven months pregnant, I’d feel pretty bad about birthing a baby in August just to have the cosmos explode two months later. It doesn’t seem fair to the baby, or to me–I mean, if I’d known this was my last year in existence (and yours, too) I would have spent a lot more time drinking with you all, worn cuter clothes, and eaten those spicy tuna rolls I craved. Second, I’m owed a number of checks. Third, I have yet to see the Pyramids. I could go on, but on the off chance Camping is right, I don’t think writing this reasons would be a great use of my time, nor reading them of yours.
Furthermore, on Sunday, my aunts are gathering at my parents’ house for a small baby shower. Since we’ve all made plans for the day after the Rapture, I’m assuming Camping would think none of us are saved. (Although if anyone fails to show up, I’m going to start getting worried for the rest of us. I will also get nervous if I see a flaming cross in the sky.) I’ll let you all know what happens. But I’m not too worried. Camping thought it was the Rapture before, in 1994, and we’re all still here. I was in college back then, so I’m glad I went ahead and studied for my finals. But I do admire his job description: doomsday prophet is a pretty dashing title to fill into the Occupation slot on a form.
I’m sure all of you have years and years of great life ahead of you–and that the earth does too. And, on a selfish note, I wish I could figure out a way to make this Rapture work for me. A friend of my husband’s took advantage of the Y2K anxiety to fly to Japan for $200 round trip; prices had dropped because everyone else was afraid to fly at midnight during the turn of the millennium. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Otherwise, we’ll be in touch net week. I hope.
For more info on Camping’s Rapture, see the following links from Salon, The New York Times, and a billboard on Route 140 in Massachusetts which urges us to Cry for Mercy Unto the Lord.