Why Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on the 7th January instead of the 25th December.
Written by: Marie-Teresa Hanna
The 7th of January is usually the time where everything Christmas related is taken away from shop floors, and Christmas trees are put out to be discarded. So why is it that the Eastern Orthodox community celebrates Christmas after New Year instead of the other way round?
To put it simply, it all comes down to a different calendar. The majority of western countries follow the Gregorian calendar, traditionally suggested by Pope Gregory in 1582, whereas those of Eastern countries are still bound to the older Julian calendar, which was created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC. Although there is an updated Julian calendar, which is why some Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Others still follow the old and more traditional calendar which is thirteen days behind. This includes countries such as Egypt, Greece, Russia, Ethiopia, Belarus, Serbia, and Ukraine as well as many more.
Each country has its unique way of celebrating following a forty day fast which excludes meat, poultry and dairy from the diet. Often, Christians attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a Christmas lunch comprising of some sort of meat or poultry as the centrepiece, traditionally turkey, roast lamb, goose or duck to break the fast. This is followed by a dessert ranging from homemade butter cookies with date, fig or nut filling in Greece and Egypt or Sochivo in Russia; porridge made out of grains, dried fruit and nuts and honey. Other traditions include a twelve course supper for each apostle in Russia, dressing up and carolling in Ukraine, wearing a white cloth robe to church in Ethiopia, and placing an oak branch or log into the Christmas fire in the beginning of the festive season.
On that note, do not be disheartened. There is still one day of Christmas to celebrate, wherever your destination is around the world!